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Peters S.,Goethe University Frankfurt | Borisov A.V.,Institute of Physicochemical and Biological Problems of Soil Science | Reinhold S.,German Archaeological Institute | Korobov D.S.,Russian Academy of Sciences | Thiemeyer H.,Goethe University Frankfurt
Quaternary International | Year: 2014

Anthropogenic impact in prehistoric settlements results in a considerable alteration of soil microbial communities depending on intensity and the character of human activities. This paper present a case study from a Late Bronze Age settlement located in the high-mountain part of the North Caucasus (Russia). The site represents a community, which presumably specialized in intensive livestock herding. Samples from settlement soils anthropogenically affected in the past and unmodified background soils were taken and studied. Of particular interest were divergences in soil microbial communities, expected to indicate different activities and animal presence in the site. The total microbial biomass, their respiratory activity, the biomass of fungal mycelium and the proportion of dark-colored hyphae were determined, as well as the quantitative state of keratinophilic fungi.The microbial characteristics vary considerably within the settlement locations, and contrast sharply with the reference soils exterior to the archaeological site. The cultural layer has higher percentage of active metabolizing microorganisms, whereas the total microbiological biomass is considerably lower than in the unmodified soils from the surroundings. A determining factor to transform the respiratory activity of microorganisms, in both qualitative and quantitative aspects, is the composition of the organic material which has been accumulated in the ground as a result of various human activities in the past. The cultural layers contain microorganisms, which can be reactivated when glucose is added. In the anthropogenically unmodified soils surrounding the prehistoric settlement, in contrast, 97% of the cells cannot be reactivated. Based on the mycological characteristics of the studied cultural layers and unmodified soils, in particular with regard to the total biomass of fungi mycelium, the dark pigmented fungal biomass, and the existence of keratin-decomposing soil fungi, detailed information about activity areas and their specific usage is given. The use of bio-indicators allows not only diagnosing anthropogenic impact in soils as such, but also significantly complements description of cultural layers of activity areas in the settlement, specifying their purpose. The paper presents the microbiological analyses applied and, moreover, discusses the potential of this approach as a non-destructive prospecting method on archaeological sites. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. Source

Vogel S.,University of Tubingen | Vogel S.,German Archaeological Institute | Marker M.,University of Tubingen | Marker M.,University of Florence
Geoderma | Year: 2011

The Plinian eruption of Somma-Vesuvius AD 79 that destroyed the ancient city of Pompeii, resulted in a nearly complete burial of the Sarno River plain. Hence, to a certain extent the pre-AD 79 Roman paleo-surface and paleosols of that entire landscape were conserved. To characterize the pre-AD 79 Roman paleosol and the paleo-topographical situation south of Pompeii, ten stratigraphic core drillings were conducted along two transects stretching W-E and N-S. At five locations the drillings yielded Roman paleosols that were described, sampled and analysed for soil physical and chemical parameters. Corresponding to the present-day topography of the study area, which is flat to slightly sloping, the Roman paleo-surface appears in a similar relative paleo-topographic position. It runs nearly parallel to the modern surface at a depth of 5.50 to 6.40m. By comparing the paleosol's properties with its position along the transects a correlation between soil parameter values and paleo-topography is revealed. The spatial distribution of paleosol characteristics is a function of soil development in relation to elevation and distance from the paleo-floodplain of the paleo-Sarno River network. This is most evident for soil thickness, soil horizonation, total organic carbon (TOC) and phosphate content and to some extent for soil texture and oxalate-extractable Si (Siox) as a measure of allophane content. Near the paleo-Sarno River and its floodplain the Roman paleosols were 30cm thick having an AC-profile and showed lower amounts of TOC and phosphates. In contrast, at higher elevation and longer distance from the paleo-River the paleosols were 60cm thick, showed the development of a B-horizon, and had higher TOC and phosphate contents and partly a finer soil texture and higher amounts of Siox. Nevertheless, all five Roman paleosols were macroscopically isotropic, i.e. they were mostly very dark gray throughout the profile. Thus, and in accordance with Alox+0.5Feox<2%, at the time of the eruption AD 79, pedogenetically the Roman paleosol south of Pompeii is a relatively young soil. Subsequent to the eruption AD 79 at lower elevations the buried Roman paleosols have come under the influence of a seasonally fluctuating groundwater table. This caused redoximorphic features in the lower section of the AD 79 white pumice layer in terms of red Fe(III)-oxide accumulations and increased amounts of SO4 2- in the underlying pre-AD 79 Roman paleosols. © 2010 Elsevier B.V. Source

Sommer R.S.,University of Kiel | Benecke N.,German Archaeological Institute | Lougas L.,Tallinn University | Nelle O.,University of Kiel
Journal of Quaternary Science | Year: 2011

The wild horse Equus ferus was one of the most frequent species of the Late Pleistocene large ungulate fauna in Eurasia and played an important role in the subsistence of human groups, especially at the end the Late Glacial. It is frequently assumed that E. ferus became extinct in Europe at the beginning of the Holocene because of the development of woodlands and loss of open habitats. Because of its preference for open habitats and in spite of its adaptability, the appearance or disappearance of the wild horse could therefore be a suitable palaeoecological indicator for the opening of the Holocene primeval woodlands. We revised the dating and reliability of the subfossil record and dated several bones by atomic mass spectrometry 14C dating. From the beginning of the Holocene (9600 cal a BC) to the end of the Atlantic Period (3750 cal a BC) there are 207 archaeological sites with wild horse records available in Europe. E. ferus survived the Pleistocene Holocene transition in Europe, but the spatiotemporal dynamics of populations fluctuated remarkably in the early and middle Holocene. Small and sparse populations increasingly became extinct during the early Holocene, until between 7100 and 5500 cal a BC the wild horse was almost absent in central parts of the European Lowlands. Particular conditions in natural open patches in the canopy forests, chalklands and floodplains may have maintained the local survival of the horse in some regions of the Lowlands, however. In the Late Atlantic, between 5500 and 3750 cal a BC the range of the wild horse was again extended. It re-immigrated into central and western Europe, probably as a consequence of increasing landscape opening by Neolithic peoples. The data presented here may be a valuable part of the debate on the degree of openness of the early and middle Holocene landscape. © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Source

Sommer R.S.,University of Kiel | Kalbe J.,University of Potsdam | Ekstrom J.,Lund University | Benecke N.,German Archaeological Institute | Liljegren R.,Lund University
Journal of Biogeography | Year: 2014

Aim: To understand the role and significance of the reindeer, Rangifer tarandus (Linnaeus, 1758), as a specific indicator in terms of late Quaternary biogeography and to determine the effects of global climate change on its range and local extinction dynamics at the end of the Ice Age. Location: Late Pleistocene/early Holocene range of reindeer over all of central and western Europe, including southern Scandinavia and northern Iberia, but excluding Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine. Methods: Radiocarbon-dated subfossil records of R. tarandus from both archaeological and natural deposits younger than 25,000 years were assembled in a database. The distribution area was divided into six representative regions. The 14C dates were calibrated and plotted chronologically in maps in order to compare presence and absence and regional extinction patterns from one region to another. Results: After the Last Glacial Maximum, R. tarandus disappeared from south-eastern Central Europe but survived in the south-west until the Younger Dryas period. The 'Allerød warming' did not result in complete extirpation of reindeer in Central Europe. Reindeer probably disappeared c. 11,250 years ago in the North European Plain and c. 11,000 years ago in the British Isles. In southern Scandinavia the species survived until c. 10,300 years ago. Main conclusions: The late Quaternary record for reindeer in Europe during the last 25 kyr shows a climate-driven dispersal and retreat in response to climate change, with regional variations. The collapse of the mammoth steppe biome did not lead to the local extinction in Europe, as in the case of other megafaunal species. Rangifer tarandus co-existed for about 3000 years during the Late Glacial and early Holocene with typical temperate species such as red deer and roe deer in non-analogue faunal communities. The regional extinction at the end of the Pleistocene coincides with the transition from light open birch/pine forests to pine/deciduous forests. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Source

Vogel S.,German Archaeological Institute | Marker M.,University of Tubingen | Marker M.,University of Florence
Geomorphology | Year: 2010

A methodology was developed to reconstruct the Roman topography and environmental features of the Sarno River plain, Italy, before the AD 79 eruption of the Somma-Vesuvius volcanic complex. We collected, localized and digitized more than 1800 core drilling data to gain a representative network of stratigraphical information covering the entire plain. Besides other stratigraphical data including the characteristics of the pre-AD 79 stratum, the depth to the pre-AD 79 surface was identified from the available drilling documentations. Instead of a simple interpolation method, we used a machine based learning approach based on classification and regression trees to reconstruct the pre-AD 79 topography. We hypothesize that the present-day topography reflects the ancient topography and related surface processes, because volcanic deposits from the AD 79 eruption coated the ancient landscape. Thus, ancient physiographic elements of the Sarno River plain are still recognizable in the present-day topography. Therefore, a high-resolution, present-day digital elevation model (DEM) was generated. A detailed terrain analysis yielded 15 different primary and secondary topographic indices. Subsequently, a classification and regression model was applied to predict the depth of the pre-AD 79 surface combining present-day topographic indices with other physiographic data. This model was calibrated with the measured depth of the pre-AD 79 surface. The resulting pre-AD 79 DEM was compared with the classified characteristic of the pre-AD 79 stratum, identified from the drilling documentations. This allowed the reconstruction of pre-AD 79 environmental features of the Sarno River plain such as the ancient coastline, the paleo-course of the Sarno River and its floodplain. To the knowledge of the authors, it is the first time that the pre-AD 79 topography of the Sarno River plain was systematically reconstructed using a detailed database and sophisticated data mining technologies. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. Source

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