Developing International Geoarchaeology- Day 1

Posted on July 19, 2019

0


For you weekend pleasure, some Geoarchaeology. These videos are from the 7th Developing International Geoarchaeology conference:

 

From Green Sahara to Desert River: 6000 Years of Environmental Change in the Sudanese Nile Valley

https://youtu.be/4XRCctf8Kx4 

Jamie Woodward

 

Regional Stratigraphy, Tephrochronology, and Human Occupation of the Upper Susitna Basin, Central Alaska

https://youtu.be/6OC5gY6zLgs John C. Blong
School of History, Classics and Archaeology, Newcastle University, UK Department of Anthropology, Texas A&M University, USA

The mountainous upland landscapes of central Alaska play an important role in understanding key issues in Beringian archaeology, including human adaptation to new landscapes and changes in landscape use in response to environmental change. This paper presents the geomorphological and paleovegetation record of the upper Susitna River basin in the central Alaska Range, and discusses late Pleistocene and Holocene landscape and vegetation change and how this affected human use of this upland landscape. Geomorphological data suggest that the last significant glacial ice sheet covering the upper Susitna basin receded by 14,000-13,000 cal yr BP. Following deglaciation, there is evidence for high-energy aeolian activity spanning the late Pleistocene and early Holocene. There are at least three Holocene tephra falls recognized in the upper Susitna basin, and there are preliminary indications that tephra fall may have affected vegetation patterns in the study area. Initial human occupation occurred by 11,000-10,500 cal yr BP, at least 2000 years after the end of full glacial conditions, and 1000 years after first evidence of landscape recovery. Early Holocene use of the study area appears to have been ephemeral, but human activity intensified in the middle and late Holocene as modern vegetation patterns were established. There is evidence for a hiatus in human occupation of the upper Susitna region during the middle Holocene, possibly related to related to deposition of the most substantial tephra fall in the study area.

How the Late Pleniglacial Landscape Changes Diversified the Gravettian Record of Ach and Lone Valleys

https://youtu.be/4-GJDw1ne74 Alvise Barbieri1, Andreas Taller 2, Felix Bachofer 3, Geraldine Quénéhervé 4, Nicholas J. Conard, 1,2,3, Chris E. Miller 5

1 Institute for Archaeological Sciences, University of Tübingen, Germany

2 Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology, University of Tübingen, Germany

3 Department of Geosciences, University of Tübingen, Germany

4 Institute of Geography, Faculty of Science, University of Tübingen, Germany

5 Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Paleoenvironment, University of Tübingen, Germany

The Ach and Lone valleys of the Swabian Jura (In Bade-Württemberg, Southwest Germany) represent a key region in the study of human migrations in central Europe. In contrast with the Aurignacian and the Magdalenian, the Gravettian record preserved in the cave sites of these two valleys is poorer and appears variable. Previous lithic analyses conducted on the Gravettian stone tools of the Ach Valley have discovered multiple refitted artefacts found across several different cave sites, which might indicate that this part of the Jura was repeatedly occupied by the same group of humans. In contrast, in the Lone Valley material and 14C dating indicative of the Gravettian occupation are sparser and are largely redeposited within younger sediments. Over the past years we have investigated the natural processes that shape the landscape and the cave deposits of these two valleys. By combining a variety of methods (including geophysical prospection, coring, micromorphology, FTIR, and radiocarbon dating) we demonstrate that alternating phases of soil formation, hillside denudation, river valley incision and floodplain aggradation have been the major processes active in the Lone and Ach valleys throughout the Pleistocene and Holocene. Here we evaluate how local variables (such as valley gradient, drainage basin extent, size and relative elevation of caves) influenced these processes and their impact on cave sedimentation. Our results suggest that a phase of river valley incision and subsequent, intensive mass wasting of the hillsides promoted the erosion of Gravettian-aged deposits from the caves of these valleys. The eroded sediments accumulated at the foot of the hill, where they promoted a phase of floodplain aggradation. In the Lone Valley this final phase of aggradation occurred at a lower rate in comparison with the Ach Valley. As a result the effect of the drop in base level lasted longer in the Lone Valley, thereby promoting further erosion of the cave deposits. We conclude that the record of Gravettian-aged occupation is variable across the two valleys as a result of natural landscape-scale geomorphological processes.

 

Developing High-Resolution Theoretically-Informed Geoarchaeology: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Changing Human-Fire Relations in Early Agricultural Environments and Communities

https://youtu.be/yu3Gavw-Wfg Wendy Matthews Department of Archaeology, School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science, University of Reading, UK

The aim in this paper is to evaluate ways in which high-resolution theoretically-informed approaches can be applied in analysis of multi-scalar geoarchaeological data sets to explore the interconnectedness between environment and human ecology, technology and social roles and relations. As a case-study, this paper examines theories and approaches in investigation of the inter-relationships between fire ecology, fuel-selection, and the socio-economic context and specific uses of fire. Theories and approaches are drawn from ecology, anthropology, material studies and archaeology. The analytical techniques reviewed and applied include micro-charcoal analyses, micromorphology, biomolecular analyses by GC-MS and FTIR. The geoarchaeological data sets examined are drawn from landscapes and built environments that inform on one of the most significant step-changes in human lifeways and interrelations with environment and other species – the transition from mobile hunting-gathering to more sedentary agriculture in a key heartland of change, the Zagros region of Iraq and Iran, c. 12,000-8,000 BP. In the review and case-studies multiple links are investigated between human fire-use and environment, ecology, energy use, technology, the built environment, health, social roles and relations, cultural practices and catastrophic events. From the selected examples presented, it is evident that a wide range of ecological and social theories and analytical techniques are applicable in geoarchaeology and can be combined to develop interdisciplinary enquiries that encourage analysis of the multifaceted, multi-scalar and inter-related aspects and human-environment inter-relations and in this case, the impacts of fire and thus bring us closer to robust consideration of alternate hypotheses and interpretations. The interdisciplinary analytical techniques reviewed enable identification of diverse fire-affected plant, dung, micro-artefactual and architectural materials, and high-resolution analysis of their precise associations and taphonomy, crucial to interpretation of the context, history and impact of fire and the specific linkages, couplings and interrelations between humans, environment and other species.

Subsistence Practices in the Arid Negev Highlands During the Intermediate Bronze Age (c. 2500-1950 BC): A Geoarchaeological Perspective

https://youtu.be/FfecuOR2BUw Zachary Dunseth 1,2, Israel Finkelstein 1, Ruth Shahack-Gross 2

1 Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University, Israel

2 Laboratory for Sedimentary Archaeology, Department of Maritime Civilizations, University of Haifa, Israel

A massive settlement phenomenon characterizes the arid Negev Highlands (southern Israel) during the Intermediate Bronze Age (IBA) (ca. 2500-1950 BC). However, the subsistence practices of this large desert population are poorly understood. Previous work has suggested the existence of two complementary elements during the period: large central sites specialized in copper processing and production, and smaller ephemeral sites supported by nomadic-pastoralism. Both settlement types have been assumed to have practiced livestock rearing and dry seasonal farming. However, to date, these assumptions have been based on ceramic typologies, presence of flint blades, grinding stones, and scant zooarchaeological assemblages. Direct evidence for either herding or cultivation is very limited. Recent geoarchaeological work at other sites in the Negev Highlands has shown the potential for recovering direct evidence for subsistence practices through the identification of sediments containing degraded animal dung, followed by the analysis of phytoliths from this material. The latter reflect animal foddering practices, and thus whether cereal cultivation was carried out. Following this approach, two central and one ephemeral IBA sites were excavated. A study of a second ephemeral site is underway. The excavations focused on sediment sampling from varied contexts (habitation floors, courtyards, pits etc.). Analyses included mineralogical characterization via FTIR spectroscopy, extraction and quantification of phytoliths as well as morphotype analysis, extraction and quantification of ash pseudomorphs and dung spherulites, and XRF analyses to detect evidence for copper production/processing. The results show the presence of ancient livestock dung at the ephemeral site, with phytolith assemblages indicative of free-ranging animal husbandry. In contrast, the two central sites show no evidence for any type of food production or copper processing activities. These results force a new discussion about subsistence and society at central sites and the role of larger international economies in the arid Negev Highlands during the Intermediate Bronze Age.

Manuring Practices in the Danish Late Bronze and Early Iron Age: Geoarchaeological Investigations of Three Celtic Field Systems from Eastern Jutland, Denmark

https://youtu.be/smaMTKNq4aY Nina Helt Nielsen1*, Søren Munch Kristiansen 2 & Mette Løvschal 3

1 Museum Silkeborg, Denmark

2 Department of Geoscience, Aarhus University, Denmark

3 Department of Archaeology, Aarhus University, Denmark

Indications of manure are often found at the so-called ‘Celtic fields’ that were used throughout large parts of north-western Europe in the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age. Manuring may well have been an important aspect of arable cultivation in this period, and in addition to having influenced the organization of daily life, it may have been related to a change towards more permanent rights to the individually enclosed fields. Although recent investigations have significantly improved our knowledge of the type of manure used at specific sites, less attention has been given to the fact that manuring strategies may have varied between regions according to aspects such as soil conditions, available resources and cultural traditions. In 2016, new targeted fieldwork was therefore carried out at three Celtic fields situated in Eastern Jutland: Hjortsballe, Silkeborg Vesterskov and Boes Skov. The investigations had two overall objectives: 1) to determine the manuring practices and possible variations between and within the investigated sites, and 2) to date the accumulation of earthen banks and lynchets separating the individual fields. At each site, a trench was dug through a field boundary and the adjacent fields, and samples were taken for OSL and 14C dating, pollen, thin section analysis, and geochemistry (including multi-element analyses by ICP-MS and analysis of iodine). Furthermore, in order to determine the intra-site variation of the manuring practices, additional randomized samples of the topsoil in selected fields were collected and subjected to geochemical analyses. In this paper, the results and archaeological interpretations as well as the methodological approach will be presented and discussed with reference to previous geoarchaeological investigations of Celtic fields.

Approaching Landscape Transformations Through Urban Micromorphology at Bronze Age Palaikastro, Crete

https://youtu.be/bOkQ_3nkYY0 Rachel Kulick Department of Art, University of Toronto, Canada

At Bronze Age Palaikastro, Crete, archaeological sequences are defined by destructive events, which provide snapshots of cultural material in a particular time and space. Evidence for occupational phases is mainly based on materials found above floors/surfaces, while evidence for transitional phases is largely based on the accumulation of sediments and debris between floors/surfaces. Micromorphological evidence can correspond to both occupational and transitional phases and assist in determining the extent to which landscape transformations affected the urban site during particular phases. Two general microfabric groups are observable in the Palaikastro sediment thin sections: (1) more rounded, sorted sediment grains deposited gradually by coastal/river flooding or aeolian processes, and (2) coarser, unsorted sediment grains deposited rapidly by slope processes. Moreover, these two microfabric groups may be correlated with occupational and transitional phases, respectively. Group 1 tends to be found immediately beneath larger debris sequences and may be related to periods of gradual accumulation (and more stable slope conditions) that coincided with active use of the new site area and/or initial abandonment. Group 2 tends to be found after episodes of gradual accumulation and is representative of periods of rapid sediment accumulation, which indicate slope instability, and which coincided with gaps in active occupation and/or prolonged abandonment. While the causal factors of the gaps in occupation phases and intervening transitional phases cannot at this time be attributed to particular socio-natural pressures, based on this
micromorphological study, one may conclude that periods of slow sediment accumulation may have preceded gaps in occupation phases. At the newly excavated area of Bronze Age Palaikastro, it appears that significant, slope-derived depositional episodes occurred immediately after MM I-II, MM III – LM IA (possibly with a first debris flow phase occurring post-MM IIIB), during/at the end of LM IB, and at the end of LM III occupations.

Breathing New Life into Archaeological Soils

https://youtu.be/kd1ClS2NLg0 Carol Lang and Daryl Stump Department of Archaeology, University of York, UK

Soils are essential for achieving food security as FAO indicates they sustain 95% of the world’s food production, additionally they have the potentially to help mitigate negative impacts from climate change through the capture/retention of carbon as root stock. The management of soils/sediments and water across a landscape can be the most crucial factor for increasing its agricultural potential particularly in semi-arid areas, where water stress can occur. Worldwide irrigated agriculture accounts for 20% of the cultivated land and 40% of the global food production, with Sub-Saharan Africa having the greatest potential, according to the FAO, to increase food production, ultimately providing increased food security for areas In East Africa that are suffering from the effects of acute population growth. The identification of past soil and water management systems and the reclamation of soils that were once believed to have been abandoned due to mismanagement and ecological failure can help to reduce soil degradation; estimated to be 33% of agricultural land, globally. Over the past three years the AAREA project (Archaeology of Agricultural Resilience in Eastern Africa) has focused its attention on the abandoned agricultural landscape of Engaruka, NE Tanzania. This paper focuses on modern agricultural utilisations of the archaeological sediments and their reclamation from what was believed to be a degraded state. Furthermore, challenging assumptions that the highly visible irrigated landscape, which was employed to mitigate water run-off and prevent soil erosion, was not abandoned solely from climatic change and ecological failure. By applying geoarchaeological techniques, new evidence has been obtained that indicates geochemical composition and structure of the soil/sediment across the abandoned site are still viable agriculturally. Evidence will be presented that point to reclamation of the agricultural soils over a short period of time using local land-management skills, thus returning the abandoned land into sustainable agricultural production.

 

Evaluating the Nature and Behavioral Implications of Laterally Extensive Occupation Deposits in the Middle Stone Age Levels of Blombos Cave, South Africa

https://youtu.be/PA1g3bgV0k0 Magnus M. Haaland 1, Christopher E. Miller 2,3, Karen van Niekerk 1, Ole F. Unhammer 1, Bertrand Ligouis 5, Christopher S. Henshilwood 1,4

1 Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion, University of Bergen, Norway

2 Institute for Archaeological Sciences, University of Tübingen, Germany

3 Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoenvironment, University of Tübingen, Germany

4 Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

5 Laboratory for Applied Organic Petrology (LAOP) – Institute for Archaeological Sciences, University of Tübingen, Germany

The spatial patterning of archaeological remains has been studied at several southern African Middle Stone Age (MSA) sites, yet intra-site activity patterns for this time period are not well understood, and the spatial configuration of prehistoric MSA hunter-gatherer camp sites remains largely elusive. There are several reasons for this. First, relatively few MSA sites have been excavated, and fewer still have been excavated over a large enough surface area that allow for behaviourally meaningful intra-site spatial analyses. Second, some MSA contexts simply do not contain laterally extensive, continuous and undisturbed occupation deposits and their general lack of spatial and stratigraphic integrity make them unsuitable for conventional archaeological site structure analysis. Third, many MSA sites are located in caves and rock-shelters where the recurrent use of the same confined space, by multiple depositional agents over time, have led to the formation of complex deposits that contain a combination of in-situ, partially in-situ, and completely reworked deposits. These complex, often laminated deposits can contain a high-resolution record of individual occupational events. However, the thin, finely laminated nature of the sediments makes it difficult to recover information on lateral spatial patterning using standard excavation techniques. In this study, we aim to identify and characterize intra-site spatial activity patterns through site-wide micromorphological microfacies analysis at the MSA site of Blombos Cave (BBC), South Africa. At this cave site, more than 18 m2 of the interior has been excavated, and the sedimentary sequence – which is more than 3 m deep – contains numerous lenses and micro-contexts, many of which are laterally extensive and can be associated with different phases of prehistoric human occupation. We focus on micromorphological samples collected from four different MSA occupation phases at the site: M1 (Still Bay, c. 72 ka), M2 Upper (Still Bay, c. 77 ka), M3 Upper (85 ka) and M3 Lower (101 ka). By combining micromorphology, microspectroscopy and organic petrology with high-resolution site documentation our objective is to study the lateral and vertical variability of anthropogenic microfacies, in particular in terms of their genetic interpretation (behavioral implications), temporal and spatial resolution (chronological implications) and intra-site spatial distribution (implications for prehistoric site use and organization of cave space).

Geoarchaeological Investigations of Aghitu-3, an Upper Paleolithic Cave Site in the Armenian Highlands

https://youtu.be/Mh4M1U3zgh8 Christopher E. Miller 1,2, Andrew W. Kandel 3 and Boris Gasparian 4

1 Institute for Archaeological Sciences, University of Tübingen, Rümelinstr. 23, 72070 Tübingen, Germany

2 Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Paleoenvironment, University of Tübingen, Rümelinstr. 23, 72070 Tübingen, Germany

3 The Role of Culture in Early Expansions of Humans (ROCEEH), Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Rümelinstr. 23, 72070 Tübingen, Germany

4 Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, National Academy of Sciences, Charents St. 15, 0025 Yerevan, Armenia

Aghitu-3 is a cave site within the Vorotan drainage of southern Armenia. Recent excavations conducted by the Tübingen-Armenian Paleolithic Project (TAPP)—a collaboration between the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia and the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities—have uncovered a rich record of Upper Paleolithic occupation dating between 40,000 and 24,000 cal yr BP. From a geoarchaeological perspective, Aghitu-3 is exceptional because it is a rare example of an archaeological site found within a basaltic blister cave. As such, it allows us to examine formation processes and post-depositional modification outside of the more usual karstic settings. Additionally, the TAPP team has conducted a wide range of supporting studies, including microfauna, pollen, charcoal and tephra analyses, which provide an excellent picture of environmental change in Armenia during the Pleistocene. Here we present the results of a geoarchaeological study of the deposits at Aghitu-3, focusing on the results of micromorphological, FTIR and μ-FTIR analyses. In particular, we address several key aspects of the Aghitu-3 sequence: a) the natural processes of infilling of the basaltic cavity during the occupation of the site, including the deposition and redeposition of tephra; b) the evidence for the construction of hearths; and c) post-depositional modification of the deposits, in particular the formation of ice-segregation lenses. For the final aspect, we compare the results of our analysis with those of other paleoenvironmental proxies, to test the reliability of the presence of freeze-thaw structures in cave deposits in reconstructing past environmental change.

Ciota Ciara Cave and the Monte Fenera Palaeolithic (Italy): New Data, New Views

Diego E. Angelucci1, Marta Arzarello 2, Maurizio Zambaldi 1

1 Dipartimento di Lettere e Filosofia, Università di Trento, Italy

2 Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici, Università di Ferrara, Italy

Situated at the southern border of western Alps, Monte Fenera is a low, mostly carbonate-built hill, hosting several palaeontological and archaeological sites – among which karstic caves bearing evidence of Palaeolithic occupations. The Monte Fenera sites have a long history within Alpine archaeology: they have been extensively explored since the 19th century, but information on their stratigraphy, chronology, formation and function remains incomplete or even lacking. Being among the few Palaeolithic cave-sites prior to LGM in the area, their systematic study is crucial for understanding human peopling and environmental evolution of the region in the Pleistocene. We here focus on the Ciota Ciara site, a complex, active cave modelled in Triassic dolostone. Systematic fieldwork at this cave resumed in 2009, along with new analyses and dating that has allowed us to revise the site’s archaeology and formation. Our contribution deals with the geoarchaeological analysis of the Palaeolithic succession that was unearthed at cave entrance. After accurate field description and sampling, we have performed routine sedimentological analyses, basic geochemical characterisation and micromorphological observation. Preliminary results suggest that the succession at the Ciota Ciara entrance is older than formerly assumed and may date to Middle Pleistocene – early Upper Pleistocene. Sediment accumulation in this sector of the cave results from consecutive events of concentrated flow and runoff from the inner karstic system, alternating with episodes of éboulis accumulation from wall/roof disintegration and short phases of surface stabilization. Post-depositional processes include frost action, hydromorphism and diagenesis, and weathering dynamics have selectively affected archaeological components, which thus show distinct degrees of preservation. We discuss the first results of the geoarchaeological revision of the Ciota Ciara site and set them in the context of Pleistocene cave archaeology and of the debate on the evolution of Neandertals in Mediterranean Europe.

Towards High-Resolution Sediment Chronologies: Regular Natural Sediment Incursions in Burnt Mound Deposits as a Proxy for Time

https://youtu.be/df5gpwmJsmU Tom Gardner School of History, Classics and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh, UK

Burnt mound sites represent the most common application of fuel-use strategies across the Bronze Age landscapes of Great Britain and Ireland. Multiproxy scientific examinations of burnt mound deposits are becoming more common, especially through rigorous planning consent and good commercial archaeological practice. However, radiocarbon based chronologies often struggle to offer high-resolution results. This leads to the environmental evidence retrieved from burnt mound sites often being homogenised by spit-based bulk sampling, and offering a reduced resolution on changing human practices. This study will assess a suite of Neolithic to late Bronze Age burnt mound sites across the Orkney archipelago and north Northumberland, all of which have been subjected to high-resolution micromorphological and XRF analysis. Amongst many other findings, these analyses have indicated that 1. Annually/sequentially deposited natural sediments can appear in otherwise homogenous anthropic deposits when assessed under the microscope 2. If properly modelled by examining local hydrological and sedimentological processes, these can be used to subdivide deposits, and provide high-resolution distinctions between deposits at a microscale 3. This can then be used to establish tighter chronologies and site-use biographies, and in turn to differentiate between archaeobotanical, geochemical, and geoarchaeological assemblages of extracted and disarticulated material. Some sub-coastal burnt mounds were regularly inundated by Aeolian sands in periods of increased storminess, providing microscopic (and sometimes macroscopic) seriation of sediments and components. The same can be seen with alluvial flood deposits encroaching on burnt mounds in lacustrine basins. Through micromorphology and concurrent XRF analysis, it may be possible to model these natural sediment incursions and use them to increase the resolution of existing strands of data on ecology, environment, and direct indicators of human activity. Ultimately, it is argued that multidisciplinary geoarchaeological and environmental analyses of landscapes which see regular natural sediment deposition can lead to new avenues of research and interpretation.

Artefact Preservation in Saturated, Tropical Cave Sediments: Constraining Site Formation Processes in the Humid Tropics Through Experimental Reconstruction of Sedimentary Palaeoenvironments

https://youtu.be/3Phvi1pkz6k Conor McAdams, Richard “Bert” Roberts, Mike W. Morley Centre for Archaeological Science, University of Wollongong, Australia

Archaeological site formation processes active in the Pleistocene caves of the humid tropics are currently poorly resolved. This uncertainty impacts archaeological understandings of settlement patterns, subsistence strategies and hominin interactions in Southeast Asia, a region increasingly at the forefront of Palaeolithic research. Sedimentary environments inside caves have been a focus of geoarchaeological research in temperate latitudes, but our current understanding of post-depositional alteration of archaeological material within these environments is based largely on field observations. Post-depositional changes are often claimed to be accelerated by tropical climates, but these claims are difficult to relate conclusively to observed sedimentary features. To generate much-needed reference data and bolster our understanding of diagenetic processes in tropical regions, we are conducting experiments that involve the construction of stratigraphic sequences as analogues for sedimentary palaeoenvironments in tropical caves. A basal layer of sand provides a surface upon which archaeological material is distributed, representing a typical occupation deposit associated with modern humans. Each stratigraphic sequence has two, virtually identical sets of archaeological “artefacts.” Guano is deposited on top of this ‘cultural layer,’ and the sediments are saturated with water, simulating the anoxic, waterlogged conditions inferred from micromorphological analysis of excavated sites. Electrochemical data will be collected to characterise changing sedimentary environments, while a combination of analytical techniques, including X-ray analyses, vibrational spectroscopy and electron microscopy, will be used to observe the progression of mineralogical changes, organic taphonomic processes and element transport. Thin sections will be made to link the chemical and physical alterations affecting the excavated assemblage to visible micromorphological features. Excavations will be carried out at regular intervals, and include control samples, to allow for comparisons of diagenetic processes through time and under different environmental conditions. In this paper we will discuss our initial experimental results, together with a discussion of their broader implications.

 

Micro-Contextual Investigations of Organic Matter in the Archaeological Sedimentary Record

https://youtu.be/TT8EtYu22YU Carolina Mallol
Department of Geography and History, University of La Laguna, Campus de Guajara, La Laguna 38071, Tenerife, Spain Instituto Universitario de Bio-orgánica Antonio González Av. Astrofísico Francisco Sánchez, 2 La Laguna 38206, Tenerife, Spain

Here, I provide an overview of the work carried out at the Archaeological Micromorphology and Biomarker Research Lab, Tenerife, Spain. Archaeologists are implementing an increasingly wide range of high resolution geoarchaeological techniques in search of new sources of behavioural information and most of these sources are inorganic (i.e., mineral). Although in recent years there has been considerable advance in applied organic geochemistry research, there is still a considerable gap between the organic and inorganic domains of geoscience. In an attempt to bridge this gap and enrich the archaeological and paleoenvironmental records from different time periods, our research team is currently carrying out interdisciplinary investigations of archaeological sediment from different sites through a microcontextual approach that integrates soil micromorphology, spectroscopy and biomarker research. Context lies at the core of our approach, as any potential clues about food items, clothing, bedding, fuel and the natural vegetation associated with past human groups that might be concealed in the sedimentary record can only be understood within its microstratigraphic spatial and temporary framework. One of our current projects focuses on archaeological charred matter, which has a high preservation potential and is common in archaeological sedimentary deposits and combustion features. We are exploring the thermal degradation pathways of different plants and animals to identify critical stages of biomarker loss and the formation of combustion-related biomarkers or pyro-biomarkers, as well as characterizing their micromorphological counterparts. In parallel, we are exploring Palaeolithic contexts to characterize microscopic charred particles and assess the preservation potential of biomarkers in very old charred matter from different sedimentary environments.

Posted in: Videos