Monday, 10 July 2006

Soil Chemical Properties as a Tool in Archeological Investigations: Identifying Previous Anthropogenic Disturbances.

Todd Luxton, Matthew Eick, and Stephanie M. Garman. Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech, 252 Smyth Hall, Blacksburg, VA 24061

Soils that have been altered and disturbed by intensive human agricultural activity may exhibit changes in soil chemical properties or the relative concentration of specific elements. Frequent additions of manures, composts, marl, wood ash, lime and other amendments will increase the relative concentration of Calcium (Ca), Potassium (K), Phosphorus (P), Nitrogen (N), and Carbon (C) compared to unamended soils. Additionally soil chemical properties such as pH, CEC and acidity may also have been altered by intensive management. In the present study we evaluate spatial variations in soil chemical properties, as a screening tool in archeological investigations, to aid in determining the location of previous intensive agricultural activity. The study was conducted in a terrace garden at the Mount Pleasant Plantation located on the James River in Surry County Virginia. Soil samples were collected from a former terrace garden established in 1730 and maintained through the Civil War. The concentration of P, Ca, Mg, K, C, N were determined by various extraction techniques and soil pH, CEC, and acidity were determined using standard laboratory techniques. The results of the chemical assays were analyzed spatially by spatial interpolation and cluster analysis to see if discrete spatial patterns existed. The results of the spatial analysis were then coupled with archeological data to determine if variations in soil chemical properties could be used as a screening tool for determining previous anthropogenic activities associated with agricultural activities.

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