Paper No. 82-7
Presentation Time: 10:05 AM
BEYOND “HISTORIC TRASH” FINDS – METHODOLOGICAL APPROACHES AND GEOARCHAEOLOGICAL CASE STUDIES OF SITE FORMATION AND HUMAN AGENCY FROM THE MIDDLE EAST AND THE US SOUTHWEST
One important goal of geoarchaeologists is to relate site finds of the material culture to landscapes, and to interpret the effects of humans in settled environments. How have people affected sedimentation, local vegetation, soil erosion, land-use patterns, and fluvial systems throughout the Holocene? This kind of knowledge can provide a baseline for assessing rates of environmental and climatic change during the Holocene. I will present results of a few case studies from ongoing work in Anatolia, Egypt and Utah, USA. We have used lithics and “Historic Trash” finds (e.g., pot sherds, glass, loom weights, WWII packing crates, railroad slag) to calibrate sediment deposition, bioturbation mixing and soil formation rates in arid landscapes. We have been able to assess fluvial development and bank stabilities based on settlement persistence and erosion along the Tigris River, and Jordan River of Utah. Some “methodological failures” we have deployed have not yielded ideal or conclusive results that are easy to publish. For example, the use of Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) along river banks of the Tigris River could not find buried Assyrian irrigation canals, but our subsurface profiles conclusively demonstrate that the position of the Tigris has not changed very much at all since antiquity– the Assyrians built their tell (ancient mounded city) ~1 km from the river. Our study of pollen archives in multiple cores obtained from fluvial deposits and lake cores aims to test a hypothesis that local development and metallurgical activities caused deforestation in Upper Anatolia, but we have very little charcoal with which to calibrate our pollen chronologies, and many cores reflect more recent sedimentation due to modern slash-and-burn agricultural practices.