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SASSA Home Page ⇒ Soil & Sediment Tutorial Home Page

[edit] Soil / Sediment Tutorial

Understanding the natural processes of accumulation, erosion and modification that have shaped all archaeological deposits is crucial to understanding the archaeological record.

A sediment has been moved (eroded) from its original source, either by natural processes (wind, water, gravity) or by humans, and has been deposited elsewhere. It can consist of mineral and / or organic material. Sediments form the stratigraphic layers of a site, and may also be important in the burial and preservation of a site.

A soil develops in-situ in sediments or rock, through a combination of physical, chemical and biological soil forming (pedogenic) processes. Soils consist of the weathering products of rocks, (either in-situ or transported from their point of origin) mixed with decaying organic matter. Soils develop in sediments - whether natural or anthropogenic - and act to modify the composition, structure, and chemistry of the existing sediment. This has enormous implications for preservation of archaeological strata and the artefacts they contain. Soils also form the medium for cultivation, hence human development has been inextricably linked with the soils they have utilised and managed.

The interpretation of soils and sediments is based on the principle of uniformitarianism. This states that the natural processes which operate today are fundamentally the same as those that operated in the past. Hence, the study of modern day environments establishes principles that can be applied to older deposits.

For more information on these processes choose from the list below, or use the Forward button at the base of the page to be guided through a tutorial on soil and sediment processes.

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To follow the tutorial: Forward to Processes of Weathering and Erosion
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