'Flood and Flow: Place-names and the changing hydrology of river systems'

Prof Tony Brown, Dr Ben R Pears

This project primarily looks at the etymology of place-name evidence and the relationship with the physical watery landscape.
The period between c.700-1100AD marks the cross over between the initial development of occupation centres, the origin of landscape and settlement nomenclature, and the last major episode on record of rapid warming and weather extremes. This critical period of climate change is targeted because it offers the closest parallels for our own times. This project will assess how historic place-names, archaeology, and palaeoenvironmental evidence might be effectively marshalled to map riverine landscapes during periods of rapid climate change. We are questioning whether these names, laden with environmental information, in known locations still occupied today, remain valuable guides to understanding the nature of modern river flows, floodplain and wetland environments, and human responses to living with and managing water across whole river catchment basins.

Currently the project is analysing sites with the addition ‘Waesse’ (Old English) ‘place which floods and drains quickly’. There are only 8-10 in the whole country including Alrewas, Staffs; Buildwas, Shrops; Rotherwas, Heref; and Wasperton, Warks and geoarcheological samples taken from these sites have been taken in order to compare and contrast depositional environments, palaeoenvironmental information, historic landuse and critically the date for accretion using OSL.

ITRAX data from the sediment samples will be analysed alongside a suite of other analytical processes in order to demonstrate the provenance of material and the frequency and magnitude of depositionary events including individual overbank flooding events, former river channels and anthropogenic alterations to floodplain areas.