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Soil Micromorphology

Soil is a build-up of particles of chemical and physical matter, which when examined microscopically, can give us much information on the types of activity which were taking place when layers of soil were being deposited.

Soil micromorphology is becoming a more and more widely-used technique. Soil column samples are taken from excavations and each layer is prepared for laboratory analysis using a series of fine meshed sieves. Under the microscope, the particles in the soil are measured and quantified. The extent and type of human activity can be detected, including occupation areas and burnt material from burning. Re-deposited soil can be distinguished from in-situ soil, showing the effect humans have had on shaping and changing the landscape. Environmental factors such as cultivation, deforestation and animal husbandry can also be reflected in the microscopic record within the soil. When combined with other techniques, such as stratigraphic and artefactual analysis, soil micromorphology can give a more complete picture of past activity on a site.