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Research :: ARCHAEOLOGY LABORATORY :: Current Research :: Julieann Van Nest

Soil Biomantles and the Structure of Archaeological Sites
I have become very interested in how processes of soil biomantle-stone zone formation fundamentally alter the structure of archaeological sites in near-surface soils:
(J. Domier and D. Johnson, 2007, “Biomantle and Soil Thickness Processes”).

With important exceptions, most of the material remains we recover as artifacts have passed through this biomantle filter, yet we still know very little about these processes, or their end-products, as reflected in the restructuring of soils and sites. I have extended research on this topic that I began in western Illinois to New York, with similar results. New York data sets involving archaeological sites of early, middle and late Archaic age, buried to sub-plow depths are being examined, as are younger sites, and even some non-archaeological sites, as controls. Using archaeological age data we can begin to approximate the rates at which biomantle-stone zones form, confirming as Charles Darwin predicted in his last book on worms, that descent of the larger objects is relatively rapid at first, but then proceeds much more slowly. Clearly, well-formed stone zones of biogenic origin have formed within Holocene timeframes, and the development of fine-grained biomantles plays an important if largely overlooked role in the production of slope-derived sediment.

Chipped stone artifacts
Archaic period chipped stone artifacts
buried to sub-plow zone depth
Stone Zone
A stone zone and biomantle formed on a Late
Wisconsinan Missouri River Terrace, at the
Cross Ranch near Washburn, North Dakota


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