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Appears in Collections:Biological and Environmental Sciences eTheses
Title: Deep anthropogenic topsoils in Scotland: a geoarchaeological and historical investigation into distribution, character and conservation under modern land cover
Author(s): McKenzie, Joanne T
Supervisor(s): Simpson, Ian A.
Keywords: Geoarchaeology
Deep topsoils
Deep soils
Scottish farming history
Improvement Period
Landscape history
Spatial analysis
Landscape archaeology
Soil conservation
Historic environment
Landscape conservation
Historic landscape
Soil micromorphology
Soil thin section analysis
Cultural soils
Rural history
Landscape survey
Archaeological survey
Land cover
Agricultural history
Relict soils
Fuel waste
Organic matter
Land management
Raised soils
Deepened soils
Soil augmentation
Soil classification
Issue Date: 2-Oct-2006
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: Deep anthropogenic topsoils – those augmented through long-term additions of mineral bulk among fertilising agents – retain in both their physical and chemical make-up significant indicators for cultural activity. This project researched the geographical distribution and historical context of deep anthropogenic topsoils in Scotland and the Isles, and used this information to investigate the impact of current land cover upon the cultural information they retain. In so doing, the project investigated the potential for conservation of this significant cultural resource. A review of the historical information available on agricultural and manuring practices for Scotland identified several factors likely to affect deep topsoil distribution and frequency. These were: the availability of bulk manures to Scottish farmers, the significance of the seaweed resource in determining fertiliser strategies in coastal areas, and the influence of urban settlement and associated patterns of domestic and industrial waste disposal on the location of deep topsoils. Evidence for widespread deep topsoil development was limited. The primary data source used – the First Statistical Account of Scotland – was manipulated into a spatial database in ArcView GIS, to which geographical data from the Soil Survey of Scotland and national archaeological survey databases were added. This was used to devise a survey programme aiming both to investigate the potential factors affecting soil development listed above, and to locate deep topsoil sites for analysis. Three sites were identified with deep topsoils under different cover types (woodland, arable and pasture). The urban-influenced context of two of these highlighted the significance of urban settlement to the location of Scottish deep topsoils. Analysis of pH, organic matter, and total phosphorus content showed a correlation between raised organic matter and a corresponding increase in phosphorus content in soils under permanent vegetation. By contrast, soils under arable cultivation showed no such rise. This was attributed to the action of cropping in removing modern organic inputs prior to down-profile cycling. The potential for pasture and woodland cover to affect relict soil signatures was therefore observed. Thin section analysis aimed to both provide micromorphological characterisation of the three deep topsoil sites and investigate the effect of modern land cover on micromorphological indicators. Distinctive differences in micromorphological character were observed between the rural and urban deep topsoils, with the latter showing a strong focus on carbonised fuel residues and industrial wastes. All sites showed a highly individual micromorphological character, reflective of localised fertilising systems. There was no correlation between land cover type and survival of material indictors for anthropogenic activity, with soil cultural indicators surviving well, particularly those characteristic of urban-influenced topsoils. Suggestions for preservation strategies for this potentially rare and highly localised cultural resource included the incorporation of deep anthropogenic topsoil conservation into current government policy relating to care of the rural historic environment, and the improvement of data on the resource through ongoing survey and excavation.
Description: The thesis includes a set of large digital appendices (Appendix 3 and Appendix 4) which are available as a CD on request from the author.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Affiliation: School of Natural Sciences
Biological and Environmental Sciences

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