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From pedologic indications to archaeological reconstruction: deciphering land use in the Islamic period in the Baida district (north-western Sicily)


Egli, Markus; Gristina, Luciano; Wiesenberg, Guido L B; Martín Civantos, Jose María; Rotolo, Antonio; Novara, Agata; Brandová, Dagmar; Raimondi, Salvatore (2013). From pedologic indications to archaeological reconstruction: deciphering land use in the Islamic period in the Baida district (north-western Sicily). Journal of Archaeological Science, 40(6):2670-2685.

Abstract

The aim of this work was to detect imprints on soil properties from former Islamic land use (9th to 11th century) using a multi-method, soil-chemical approach. Four soil profiles (with buried horizons) found in the vicinities of former Islamic settlements in Sicily were analysed for phosphorus (total, organic and inorganic), nitrogen (total, NO!3 and NH"4 ), carbon compounds (d13C, lipids, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and functional groups), physical and chemical C-fractions and the state of soil weathering. Two soil profiles contained ceramic sherds from the Islamic period. Inorganic nitrogen forms, phosphorous and the PAH content indicated strong impacts from traditional agriculture and/or burning. Radiocarbon dating of soil organic carbon (SOC) fractions from buried horizons showed that distinct changes must have occurred during the Islamic epoch. The isotopic composition of SOC indicated that land use was probably different in earlier times. C4 plant cultivation was expected but surprisingly lipid analyses did not confirm this. A high amount of aliphates and low C/N ratio indicated a good, long-term SOC stabilisation under the native conditions combined with Islamic land use. The irrigation of the soils probably increased the production of weakly-crystalline Fe forms that helped to stabilise SOC.
The multi-method approach was very helpful in deciphering human-induced processes. Although a full proof for each parameter is not given, former Islamic land-use seems to have distinctly affected the soils e not only locally but probably also in other areas of Sicily, Northern Africa, Near East and Iberian Peninsula.

Abstract

The aim of this work was to detect imprints on soil properties from former Islamic land use (9th to 11th century) using a multi-method, soil-chemical approach. Four soil profiles (with buried horizons) found in the vicinities of former Islamic settlements in Sicily were analysed for phosphorus (total, organic and inorganic), nitrogen (total, NO!3 and NH"4 ), carbon compounds (d13C, lipids, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and functional groups), physical and chemical C-fractions and the state of soil weathering. Two soil profiles contained ceramic sherds from the Islamic period. Inorganic nitrogen forms, phosphorous and the PAH content indicated strong impacts from traditional agriculture and/or burning. Radiocarbon dating of soil organic carbon (SOC) fractions from buried horizons showed that distinct changes must have occurred during the Islamic epoch. The isotopic composition of SOC indicated that land use was probably different in earlier times. C4 plant cultivation was expected but surprisingly lipid analyses did not confirm this. A high amount of aliphates and low C/N ratio indicated a good, long-term SOC stabilisation under the native conditions combined with Islamic land use. The irrigation of the soils probably increased the production of weakly-crystalline Fe forms that helped to stabilise SOC.
The multi-method approach was very helpful in deciphering human-induced processes. Although a full proof for each parameter is not given, former Islamic land-use seems to have distinctly affected the soils e not only locally but probably also in other areas of Sicily, Northern Africa, Near East and Iberian Peninsula.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2013
Deposited On:14 Mar 2013 09:44
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 16:41
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0305-4403
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2013.02.001

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