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Charred organic matter and phosphorus in black soils in the Lower Rhine Basin (Northwest Germany) indicate prehistoric agricultural burning


Eckmeier, E; Gerlach, R; Tegtmeier, U; Schmidt, M W I (2008). Charred organic matter and phosphorus in black soils in the Lower Rhine Basin (Northwest Germany) indicate prehistoric agricultural burning. In: Fiorentino, G; Magri, D. Charcoals from the past: cultural and palaeoenvironmental implications. Oxford, UK: Archaeopress, 93-103.

Abstract

We investigated the properties of dark soils, namely Luvic Phaeozems in the Lower Rhine Basin (NW-Germany). We discovered clusters of hundreds of regularly shaped pits that were always connected to the Bht horizons of adjacent Luvic Phaeozems. The occurrence of anthropogenic pits in connection with Phaeozems was never reported before, and we called them Phaeozem pits. We conducted archaeobotanical (charcoal analysis) and geochemical (black carbon, carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations) investigations.
We compared soil material from Phaeozem pits with clearly anthropogenic pits: (i) settlement pits, and (ii) slot pits, that can be found outside of prehistoric settlements and do not contain any visible artefacts, but are defined as anthropogenic by their shape. The main results of our study were: (1) Phaeozem Bht horizons and pits are man-made and archaeological off-site features. (2) Soil properties of
the Phaeozem horizons could have been affected by inputs of soil amendments, perhaps to fertilize agricultural fields or gardens. (3)
The high proportion of charred organic matter in the dark soil material of Phaeozem horizons and pit fillings results from vegetation fires ignited by man. (4) They were presumably formed in several periods between Mesolithic and the Middle Ages, mainly during Younger to End-Neolithic (4400-2200 BC). We concluded that the Phaeozem horizons could have been formed by agricultural burning, like slash-and-burn, during several (pre)historic epochs.

We investigated the properties of dark soils, namely Luvic Phaeozems in the Lower Rhine Basin (NW-Germany). We discovered clusters of hundreds of regularly shaped pits that were always connected to the Bht horizons of adjacent Luvic Phaeozems. The occurrence of anthropogenic pits in connection with Phaeozems was never reported before, and we called them Phaeozem pits. We conducted archaeobotanical (charcoal analysis) and geochemical (black carbon, carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations) investigations.
We compared soil material from Phaeozem pits with clearly anthropogenic pits: (i) settlement pits, and (ii) slot pits, that can be found outside of prehistoric settlements and do not contain any visible artefacts, but are defined as anthropogenic by their shape. The main results of our study were: (1) Phaeozem Bht horizons and pits are man-made and archaeological off-site features. (2) Soil properties of
the Phaeozem horizons could have been affected by inputs of soil amendments, perhaps to fertilize agricultural fields or gardens. (3)
The high proportion of charred organic matter in the dark soil material of Phaeozem horizons and pit fillings results from vegetation fires ignited by man. (4) They were presumably formed in several periods between Mesolithic and the Middle Ages, mainly during Younger to End-Neolithic (4400-2200 BC). We concluded that the Phaeozem horizons could have been formed by agricultural burning, like slash-and-burn, during several (pre)historic epochs.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Book Section, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2008
Deposited On:21 Oct 2008 14:16
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 12:29
Publisher:Archaeopress
Series Name:British Archaeological Reports
Number:1807
ISBN:978-1-407-30294-2
Official URL:http://www.archaeopress.com/searchBar.asp?QuickSearch=fiorentino
Related URLs:http://www.archaeopress.com/defaultBar.asp (Publisher)
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-4174

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