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[edit] Soils

Soils will begin to develop on any relatively stable surface, i.e. without significant net erosion or deposition, hence in-situ soil development in the stratigraphic sequence represents a period of relative stability. Under such conditions vegetation, micro-organisms and animals can colonise the soil, adding and cycling organic matter to the surface layers. Weathering processes begin to act on the soil minerals, and the action of percolating water may begin to move fine particles, organic matter and dissolved minerals down through the profile where they may be deposited in sub-surface layers. These layers are called soil horizons and it is this down-profile horizonation that divides soils from sediments.

Soils are important in archaeology because they represent stable landsurfaces, they may provide palaeoenvironmental information, they are the medium for past agricultural activity and they can act as a repository for cultural information in the form of (bio)chemical signatures of past human activity.

To find out more about the characteristics, formation or classification of soils click on one of the options from the list below:

[edit] External resources

John Conway, Soils in the Welsh Landscape: a field guide. An on-line booklet introducing soils, soil forming factors and soil properties. Available online at the website of the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester.

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