Thursday, 13 July 2006 - 4:00 PM

The Effect of Past Waste Disposal on Urban Soils in Long Established Scottish Towns.

Kirsty A. Golding and Donald Davidson. Univ of Stirling, School of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Stirling, United Kingdom

Although it is increasingly recognised that certain soils, collectively referred to as Anthrosols, have been subject to considerable modification by humans, fundamental issues such as their characterisation and classification remain unresolved. This is especially true of urban soils and as a result knowledge regarding their nature, diversity and extent is currently lacking. Most urban soil studies focus on soil contamination associated with recent pollutant sources; however one of the most unique and under-researched qualities of urban soils is their historical legacy. Waste disposal practices throughout antiquity have had a profound impact on the nature, properties and formation of urban soils. This is particularly resonant for long established Scottish towns where the extent and complexity of refuse management practises is only just emerging. The aim of this study is to characterize and understand the historical modes of urban soil formation with specific reference to processes of waste management and disposal in antiquity. Three small Scottish towns were chosen for investigation: Lauder (Borders), Pittenweem (Fife) and Wigtown (Dumfries and Galloway), on account of their geographic and functional diversity and because they have seen minimal modern urban infill and expansion since the post-medieval period (1500-1750AD). In the first instance, an auger survey was conducted at each town whereby soil samples were obtained at over 100 points using a Dutch Auger to a maximum depth of 80cm across a 200x800m transect. Each transect was strategically located across the old town core and surrounding land to enable investigation of soil within and near to the post-medieval urban centre. In addition, 23 exploratory test pits were dug across the field sites to investigate the nature and range of A horizon characteristics. Kubiena tins and associated loose bag samples were extracted accordingly. One of the unique qualities of this project is that spatial patterns of a range of physical and chemical parameters (LOI, pH, elemental concentrations) will be mapped and interpreted with specific reference to the post-medieval period.

Preliminary results from the investigation of topsoil depth spatial patterns, Munsell colour analysis and archaeological investigations suggest that significant deepening of topsoil depth within and near to the post-medieval urban limits can be explained through sustained application of urban rubbish.

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