Dating the Dark Earth: The Devil’s Kneading Trough


One of the more celebrated Dark Earth sites subjected to the sophisticated Settled Science of radiocarbon dating is the very aptly named Devil’s Kneading Trough in Kent.


Along the chalk downs in southern England there are a number of short, steep-sided dry valleys traditionally blamed on the devil (for example, Devil’s Dyke near Brighton).

These have been gouged out of the hills, probably under periglacial conditions, and their debris spread on the lowlands below.

From careful work on the snail faunas of the chalk sludge from one of these (the Devil’s Kneading Trough in Kent) Dr Michael Kerney showed that the erosion must have happened in a very short time indeed.

Within the sludge there is a clear black horizon, only an inch or so thick, which has now been recognised all over southern England.

The black colouration is due to charcoal fragments from burnt wood.

Nature of the Stratigraphic Record – Derek Ager – 1973

The small civil parish of Hastingleigh centred on an escarpment of the Kent Downs in Kent three miles east of Wye and ten miles south of Canterbury, extending to the hill-scape of the Devil’s Kneading Trough, on the North Downs Way with views towards Ashford, Romney Marsh and the patchy remnant forest of The Weald (between the Greensand Ridge and South Downs).

Brook is a small village and civil parish in the Ashford borough of Kent, England, centred 4.5 miles (7.2 km) ENE of Ashford.,_Kent

Wye Downs is a stretch of chalk downland and woodland located on the North Downs near the village of Wye in Kent.

The most spectacular coombe is known as the Devil’s Kneading Trough.

Derek Ager’s celebrated “clear black horizon” [above] was actually described in 1962 as a “dark grey organic horizon” of “marsh soil” from Brook [one kilometre from the Devil’s Kneading Trough] and it confirmed expectations when it was dated at 11,900 BP.

Q-618. Brook, E Kent, no. 2
11,900 ± 160

Organic marsh soil (51° 9′ 30″ N Lat, 0° 57′ 30″ E Long), S of Wye, E Kent.

A spread of solifluxion material has been demonstrated by Dr. M. P. Kerney (Imperial College, London) and Dr. E. H. Brown (Univ. College, London) to have spread out from the coombes in the chalk escarpment, over a wide area of Gault Clay.

This solifluxion material is divided into two by a dark grey organic horizon containing pollen and Mollusca indicative of marsh conditions.

Dr. Kerney is inclined to regard this organic layer as Zone II (Allerød) in age, as in the comparable situations at such other sites on the Kentish Chalk as Dover Hill and Holborough (Q-463, Q-473, Cambridge III).

Sample from 4-in, auger core. Coll. November 1960 by M. P. Kerney.

date corresponds closely with that from Dover Hill (Q-463, 11,944 ± 210) and confirms the expectation that the layer represents the Allerød oscillation.

It strengthens previous conclusions on the reality of the Late-glacial climatic oscillation in Southern England (Godwin, 1960).

Cambridge University Natural Radiocarbon Measurements
V H. Godwin And E. H. Willis – Radiocarbon – Vol 4 – 1962 – P. 57-70

A type of creep process, solifluction describes the slow downslope movement of water-saturated sediment due to recurrent freezing and thawing of the ground, affected by gravity.

These Great Expectations were established by a 1954 paper that defined Pollen Zones that are “not exactly the same” everywhere but are said [somehow] to “apply globally”.

The Allerød oscillation was a warm and moist global interstadial that occurred at the end of the last glacial period.

The Allerød period was named after a type site in Furesø municipality in Sjælland, Denmark (near Copenhagen), where deposits created during the period were first identified in work published in 1901 by Hartz and Milthers.

This Blytt-Sernander period corresponds to Pollen zone II.


Pollen zones are a system of subdividing the last glacial period and Holocene paleoclimate using the data from pollen cores.

At present nine main pollen zones, I-IX, are defined, based on the work of J. Iversen, published in 1954.

The sequences in Germany and Sweden are not exactly the same as those in Denmark, inviting scientists there to use the names still differently or make other definitions.

In contrast to glacial periods, these pollen zones are being used to apply globally, with but few exceptions.

These Pollen Core Expectations have been responsible for shaping [amongst many other things] Ice Core Chronologies, Simple Sandwich Models and Holocene Hockey Sticks ever since they began to be applied “globally” with “few exceptions”.



In 1964 M P Kerney published the results covering Brook and the Devil’s Kneading Trough and the “dark grey organic horizon” failed to get a mention in the Abstract.

On the plus side the 1964 Abstract establishes a fairly reasonable context for the “humic chalk muds” [of the Devil’s Kneading Trough] which contain pottery dating from 500 BC through to the 1st or 2nd centuries AD.

This paper describes the morphology of a small piece of the Chalk escarpment near Brook in east Kent, and reconstructs its history since the end of the Last Glaciation.

The escarpment contains a number of steep-sided valleys, or coombes, with which are associated deposits of chalk debris, filling their bottoms and extending as fans over the Gault Clay plain beyond.
The later history of one of the coombes, the Devil’s Kneadingtrough, is reconstructed.

In Iron Age times the subsoil was mobilized and a phase of rapid hillwashing began.

As a result the valley floor became buried by humic chalk muds.

The muds yield pottery ranging in date from Iron Age `Kentish first A’ (ca. 500 to ca. 300 B.C.) to Romano-British ware of the first or second centuries A.D.

The Late-Glacial and Post-Glacial History of the Chalk Escarpment Near Brook, Kent
M P Kerney, E H Brown, T J Chandler, J N Carreck, C A Lambert, J F Levy, A P Millman
Phil. Transactions Royal Society, London – 26 Nov 1964

Two important sites are firstly, Brook near Ashford, where cores taken from hill wash in the “Devil’s Kneading Trough” revealed evidence for a former predominantly wooded environment, with birch, yew and other hardwoods.

Some open ground was also present.

However, by circa 300 – 500 BC the land was open grassland, with the shells of snails introduced by the Romans appearing towards the top of the core.

The Cultural Heritage of Woodlands in the Kent Downs AONB
The Cultural Heritage of Woodlands in the South East
Dr Nicola R. Bannister – Forestry Commission England – Oct 2007$FILE/see-chwse-3.pdf

Another 1964 plus is the suggestion that the dry Kent Coombes were eroded very rapidly.


The escarpment contains a number of steep-sided valleys, or coombes, with which are associated deposits of chalk debris, filling their bottoms and extending as fans over the Gault Clay plain beyond.

The debris fans were formed and the coombes were cut very largely during the succeeding zone III (8800 to 8300 B.C.).

The Late-Glacial and Post-Glacial History of the Chalk Escarpment Near Brook, Kent
M P Kerney, E H Brown, T J Chandler, J N Carreck, C A Lambert, J F Levy, A P Millman
Phil. Transactions Royal Society, London – 26 Nov 1964

A combe (also spelled coombe or coomb and, in place names, comb) can either refer to a steep, narrow valley, or to a small valley or large hollow on the side of a hill; in any case, it is often understood simply to mean a small valley through which a watercourse does not run.

Going farther back, into post-glacial times, we find evidence that erosion and deposition were sometimes very rapid indeed.

From careful work on the snail faunas of the chalk sludge from one of these (the Devil’s Kneading Trough in Kent) Dr Michael Kerney showed that the erosion must have happened in a very short time indeed.

Nature of the Stratigraphic Record – Derek Ager – 1973

The intriguing aspect of the proposed post-haste, post-glacial erosion is that it requires a Deluge [of some form] to wash away the accumulated “freeze-thaw” fragments choking the coombes so that they could be deposited elsewhere as “debris fans” and coombe rock.



Head describes deposits consisting of fragmented material which, following weathering, have moved downslope through a process of solifluction.

The term has been used by British geologists since the middle of the 19th century to describe such material in a range of different settings from flat hilltops to the bottoms of valleys.

A related term is ‘combe (or coombe) rock‘, descriptive of a body of chalk and flint fragments contained within a mass of chalky earth typically found on the chalk downlands of south-east England and resulting from freeze-thaw processes.

Where the mass is also soliflucted, it is considered a variety of head.

Needless to say, a significant precipitation event [aka Deluge] is exactly what was needed to establish the Greenland Ice Sheet.



On the minus side the Abstract of this pivotal pay walled paper:

1) Forgets to mention the “chalk debris” [“solifluxion material” – 1962] is “divided into two” by the “radiocarbon-dated marsh deposits” [“dark grey organic horizon” – 1962].

2) Changes the 1962 “organic marsh soil” dating from 9,950 BC ± 160 years to the equivalent of 9,400 BC ± 600 years for the “radiocarbon-dated marsh deposits”.

3) Forgets to mention the radiocarbon dating of these “marsh deposits” is extremely suspect because it relates to a strange outlier horizon coloured by “charcoal fragments” [Ager-1973] that is recognised to occur “all over southern England” [Ager-1973].

4) Forgets to reconcile the pottery context date range [500 BC through to the 1st or 2nd centuries AD] from the Devil’s Kneading Trough with the 1962 radiocarbon dating of 11,900 BP for the “dark grey organic horizon” from Brook.

After the fun and games of 1964 the level of confusion flips into overdrive in 1971 when a lone piece of charcoal from the Devil’s Kneading Trough is actually dated at 2,590 BC.

BM-254. Brook
4540 ± 105
2590 B.C.

Charcoal (converted by Cambridge lab. to BaCO3 ; Godwin, 1965, written commun.) from Devil’s Kneading Trough, Brook, Kent, England (51° 10′ N Nat, 0° 58′ E Long). Natl. Grid Ref. TR 077452.

From Horizon C, 81 to 101 cm in weak fossil soil within chalky hill washes filling valley bottom (Kerney et al., 1964, fig. 12).

Coll. 1963 by M. P. Kerney, Dept. of Geol., Imperial College, Univ. of London; subm. by H. Godwin.

Comment (M.P.K):

dates level of drastic vegetational clearance on chalk escarpment, as revealed by changes in a molluscan diagram (Kerney et al., 1964, fig. 14).

Horizon assoc. with Neolithic flint industry; sherds of Neolithic A pottery occur at slightly deeper level (id. 1968 by I. H. Longworth).

Signs of clearance already appear at these lower levels.

No comparably dated Neolithic clearance horizon is yet available in Kent but the pollen diagram and assoc. radiocarbon dates from Wingham, near Canterbury (Godwin, 1962) showed large scale deforestation at least as early as ca. 1700 B.C. when peat formation began locally.

Peat appeared to overlie deposit from which Neolithic A pottery was previously obtained.

British Museum Natural Radiocarbon Measurements VII
Harold Barker, Richard Burleigh and Nigel Meeks
Radiocarbon, Vol. 13, No. 2, 1971, P. 157-188

Rolling forward to 1973 we find Derek Ager quoting 10,770 BP for his “clear black horizon” that in Brook [back in 1962] was a “dark grey organic horizon” dated at 11,900 BP ± 160 years.

The snail fauna suggests the same thing and enabled the bed to be correlated with the Alleroed oscillation of Denmark and northern Europe generally.

This was a brief episode of climate amelioration after the last glaciation.

The charcoal made it possible to get a carbon-14 date on the deposit, giving an age of about 10,770 years before the present.

This fits all over Europe and correlated remarkably well with the Two Creeks horizon of the same kind around the Great Lakes in North America.

Nature of the Stratigraphic Record – Derek Ager – 1973

Derek Victor Ager (1923-1993 ) was a British palaeontologist, former President of the British Geological Association, and Emeritus Professor of Geology, University College of Swansea, Wales, and critic of Immanuel Velikovsky.


In 1973 Derek Ager did some fancy footwork around the “snail fauna” being “correlated with the Alleroed oscillation”.

Strangely enough, in 1982, this correlation appears to have been put to the test.

However, the radiocarbon dating of the snail shells was 5, 050 ± 85 BP, 3,100 ± 85 BC
i.e. not correlated with the Alleroed.

Furthermore, the test highlighted the frailty of the mainstream radiocarbon methodologies when the “snail shells” were found to be 500 years older than the “charcoal” from the same sample.


The problems of the use of fossil shells of these species as samples for radiocarbon dating are discussed.

Some chronological implications of a fossil molluscan assemblage from a neolithic site at Brook, Kent, England – R. Burleigh and M.P. Kerney
Journal of Archaeological Science – Volume 9 – Issue 1 – March 1982 – Pages 29–38

After resting for 32 years the “organic marsh soil” from 1962 was re-labelled “organic detritus mud” in 1994 and retro-dated from “11 900 ± 160 yr bp” to “12 190 ± 30 yr bp” [10,240 BC].

In the 1960s, Kerney reported the widespread occurrence in southern Britain of a fossil rendzina soil in many chalkland valley sequences of Late-glacial age.

He concluded that this soil had formed during the ‘Allerød Interstadial’, a conclusion partly supported by two conventional radiocarbon dates of c. 11 900 yr bp from Dover Hill, Folkestone and from Brook, both in Kent.

Some new dates are also reported from Brook.

Two pairs of determinations have been measured on the ‘humic’ and ‘humin’ fractions from an organic detritus mud from ‘Borehole III’, previously dated at 11 900 ± 160 yr bp, using both conventional and AMS techniques.

The results are remarkably consistent and give a pooled mean of 12 190 ± 30 yr bp.

Radiocarbon Dates from the ‘Allerød soil’ in Kent – R.C. Preece
Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association – Volume 105 – Issue 2 – 1994

Moving forward to 2015 it appears the original “dark grey organic horizon” from 1962 has [somehow] been manoeuvred [over time] into a position where it simultaneously represents:

a) A layer of “marsh soil” that confirmed the expected Mild Allerød Interstadial in 1962.


b) A layer of “charred carbon-rich” soil confirming the Younger Dryas Boundary Event.


This article records the involvement of the Dutch geologist and catastrophist, Han Kloosterman, in discussions from 1976 to the present day concerning a proposed catastrophist cause for the transition from the mild Allerød interstadial to the glacial Younger Dryas stadial near the end of the Pleistocene Epoch.

This is now termed the Younger Dryas Boundary event.

Although uncalibrated radiocarbon dates for the transition from the Allerød to the Younger Dryas remained in line with the figure given by Ager, geologists came to accept it had taken place around 12,900 years before the present, on the basis of dates obtained by calibrating raw radiocarbon results with dendrochronological data, and also because of dates obtained from ice-core studies.

As dating procedures continued to be refined, that figure was recently adjusted to around 12,800 years.

Han Kloosterman and the Catastrophic End of the Allerod Interstadial [Draft]
Trevor Palmer – Chronology and Catastrophism Review – 2015:1 – pp. 22-33

The Bølling-Allerød interstadial was a warm and moist interstadial period that occurred during the final stages of the last glacial period.

This warm period ran from c. 14,700 to c. 12,700 years before the present (BP).

It began with the end of the cold period known as the Oldest Dryas, and ended abruptly with the onset of the Younger Dryas, a cold period that reduced temperatures back to near-glacial levels within a decade.

The Younger Dryas is a geological period from c. 12,900 to c. 11,700 calendar years ago (BP).

The Younger Dryas saw a sharp decline in temperature over most of the northern hemisphere, at the end of the Pleistocene epoch, immediately preceding the current warmer Holocene.

The Younger Dryas impact hypothesis or Clovis comet hypothesis originally proposed that a large air burst or earth impact of one or more comets initiated the Younger Dryas cold period about 12,900 BP calibrated (10,900 14C uncalibrated) years ago.

The hypothesis has been contested by research showing that most of the conclusions cannot be repeated by other scientists, and criticized because of misinterpretation of data and the lack of confirmatory evidence.

The evidence claimed for an impact event includes a charred carbon-rich layers of soil that have been found at some 50 Clovis sites across the continent.

Either way, the radiocarbon dating of the “dark grey organic horizon” [aka “clear black horizon”] diverges dramatically from the dating of Roman artefacts found blanketed in Dark Earth.



The divergence was created by kneading Great Expectations into Settled Science.

In other words: The Devil’s Kneading Trough finds work for idle hands.

Gallery | This entry was posted in Catastrophism, Geology, Glaciology, Greenland, History, Radiocarbon Dating. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Dating the Dark Earth: The Devil’s Kneading Trough

  1. The young Dryas Event marked a sudden climate cooling down event which could be correlated with the RTE if we interpret the dark earth layers as being contemporary.

    The problem is causing a drastic change in climate along with inundation and burial of roman infrastructure.

    The Amentotep III water clock now located at latitude 25.7166 degrees north in the Nile Valley, does not work since the LOD Winter Solstice, 11 hours 18 minutes to which the clock was calibrated conflicts with the existing 10.4 hours of daylight.

    However the water clock works as intended if it was located at a latitude of 12.7 degrees north, corresponding to a day of 11.3 hours at the winter solstice.

    Either the clock was moved from 12.7 Deg N to 25.7166 Deg N, or it remained in its present position and it was the Earth increasing its axial tilt by 13 degrees that moved it to its present, illogical, location. This minor careening of the Earth would have had the Roman Period closer to the equator, and thus a warmer climate, adduced by the Roman dress sense, which then due to the interference by the comet of Justinian, 635AD, the RTE, careened the roman empire, and mediterranean sea, to its present day latitude. This would have caused Greenland to move north 13 degrees in latitude causing it to become Whiteland from a Greenland; it would have been also the Dryas event when everything got colder by being moved to higher latitudes.

    Earth inflation or expansion might also have occurred offsetting any net careening or realigning of the Earth’s axis of spin, and its vertical alignment.

    Differential inflation or expansion must also distort the overall sphericity of the solid earth, but the Earth, as computed from its oblateness (Minoraxis/majoraxis dimensions) is closer to an ideal sphere than a standard billiard ball; it’s nitpicking the 3rd decimal place, from memory.

    So Amenhotep’s clock was suddenly moved to a different latitude, the Roman Empire was sundered by a catastrophe by a catastrophic cooling down, which is thus the Dryas Event, the Earth careened causing tsunamis and there was mass deposition of loess in Germany, which required enormous erosional effects to be formed.

    This seems to be Briden and Gass’s Alpide event, (Nature Journal), formation of US Rockies.

    One point, Egyptian buildings were constructed from limestones conventionally dated Cretaceous, so the K-T event cannot have been the RTE.

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