Are these shell middens from the herring fishing industry that used to set sail from Gorleston and Great Yarmouth or are they older mussel beds in a mud strata?
If natural shell beds or deposits then how old are they? Are they just recent remains stuck in the intertidal mud?
Why does the layer that appears to be above them not seem to have any of these wonderfully blue and purple coloured molluscs?
One type of site that some archaeologists love to investigate is the shell midden or kitchen midden. A shell midden is a heap of clam, oyster, whelk, or mussel shells, obviously, but unlike other types of sites, it is the result of a clearly recognizable single-activity event.
Shell middens are found throughout the world, on coastlines, near lagoons, and tidewater flats, along major rivers, in small streams, wherever some variety of shellfish is found. Although shell middens also date from pretty much all of prehistory, many shell middens date to the Late Archaic or (in the old world) Late Mesolithic periods.
The Archaeological Study of Shell Middens | ThoughtCo
Distinguishing natural accumulations of shell from Aboriginal shell middens is a problem often faced by archaeologists working in coastal regions. I recently investigated two buried layers of shell which their discoverers thought could be Aboriginal shell middens. One was in Cumberland Street in Sydney’s CBD and the other in St Ives, a northern suburb of Sydney. My initial field examinations suggested the former was an Aboriginal shell midden and the latter natural shell bed material. It was obvious from their locations, well above the shoreline, that neither were in situ natural shell beds.
However, because of the contexts in which they occurred, the question remained: were they, (1) in situ Aboriginal shell middens; (2) humanly redeposited natural shell bed material; (3) humanly re-deposited Aboriginal shell midden; or (4) in the case of Cumberland Street, food remains of early British settlers?
Shell bed or shell midden | Australian Archaeological Association
Shell mounds, kitchen middens or just natural mussel beds and mollusc shells in Norfolk, England?
Breydon estuary or river mussels?
These were located along Riverside Road in Gorleston, where the mouth of the River Yare meets the North Sea (Yare mouth, Yarmouth).
We're very blessed along the stretch of the Norfolk coastline to have a bounty of local fish and shellfish to choose from. Not just the summer season of lobster and crab, but lots in the winter months too. This special ecosystem is created by a current of cold water sweeping down from Norway, which brings an abundance of nutrients and the consequent food chain of marine life with it. It hits the top of the North Norfolk coast, creating a longshore drift which spreads itself west to King’s Lynn and the Wash, round to Lowestoft in the east depositing sand and shingle in its wake. This is what has created all the spits of sand, shingle banks and marsh land, and over the centuries the local population has always made a living from it.
Norfolk Seafood | Norfolk Passport
Gorleston is an old town and the Breydon Waters area around it seems to have been a much wider and further inland section of water, back in the Roman days when it was a Great Estuary and Burgh Castle and Caister protected the estuaries entrance, boats and trade.
Andersen’s distribution map of sites on North-West European coasts shows plainly that coastal middens are virtually confined to areas where the earth’s crust was undergoing uplift, or was stable (North-West Denmark, Brittany, Scotland, Ireland and parts of South-West England). In areas of crustal subsidence, including the eastern coasts of England, Mesolithic coastal sites, including middens, are now well offshore beneath the North Sea. There is no reason to suppose that marine resources were less important in this area, but the evidence is now submerged. Although submerged shell middens may well survive offshore, locating them or distinguishing them from natural shell banks will pose problems.
Later Neolithic pits close to the cliffs and intertidal flats of the Wash at Hunstanton, Norfolk have produced shells. Mussels predominated, and their relatively small size implied either collection from high up in the intertidal zone, or such heavy exploitation that few mussels could grow to full size...
Mussels were notably common in waterfront deposits at Whitefriars Street, Norwich, where dense deposits of crushed mussel shell occurred. These were thought to indicate specialized exploitation of estuarine mussel beds, probably in the Breydon Water area, close to Great Yarmouth.
The English Coast: A History and a Prospect | Peter Murph
Great Yarmouth land and town is said to be relatively new, built up on the sandbar, sandbanks and dunes of the silted up estuaries and rivers Waveney, Yare, Bure, Thurne that converged there.
You need a cold weather season for mussels which we have in Norfolk. Normally from October until the end of March when they start to spawn but it varies every year depending on weather and temperature. The local dark blue shells contain plump orangey hued mussels. And after a good scrub and debearding, they only require the briefest of steaming until they open and are done.
Today, they are farmed in Brancaster and Wells harbours (Wells-Next-The-Sea harbour image). The mussel beds are 'seeded' every year, and will take about two and half years to grow to maturity for harvest. Like oyster husbandry, it's a hard life for those that work the lays, as they are out in often ferocious winds and freezing weather during the dark of winter.
Mussels, from Brancaster and Wells-Next-The-Sea | Norfolk Passport
If these are natural shell deposits in a mud strata then are they normally found looking broken and smashed up? Is that the result of the water, tides, waves on them in the past? Or mainly ladies from Scotland, bonnie Scotch fisher lassies, throwing away the marine rubbish?
Is this any evidence of natural large scale disasters and catastrophic events to surge, hit and destroy the local marine environment? Something like a Lagerstätte or death assemblages?
Is there a similar mussel layer along the Norfolk, Suffolk and East Anglia coast that could be used for historical chronology?