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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Using Agricultural and Industrial Byproducts to Improve Crop Production Systems and Environment Quality

Location: National Soil Dynamics Laboratory

Title: Identifying military impacts on archaeological deposits based on differences in soil organic carbon and chemical elements at soil horizon interfaces

Authors
item Gebhart, D -
item Torbert, Henry
item Hargrave, M -
item Busby, R -
item Palazzo, A -

Submitted to: US Army Corp of Engineers Technical Report
Publication Type: Government Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: March 1, 2012
Publication Date: March 1, 2012
Citation: Gebhart, D.L., Torbert III, H.A., Hargrave, M.L., Busby, R.R., Palazzo, A.J. 2012. Identifying military impacts on archaeological deposits based on differences in soil organic carbon and chemical elements at soil horizon interfaces. Strategic Environment Research and Development Program (SERDP). US Army Corp of Engineers Technical Report. ERDC/CERL TR-12-5. 49 p.

Interpretive Summary: Military training is often assumed to negatively impact archaeological resources, but methodologies to estimate or infer damage to these resources are expensive and time consuming. Cultural resources managers require a technique allowing them to estimate past and current impacts of training on archaeological site condition and determine if the site is capable of supporting future training activities. The technical objectives of this research were (1) to demonstrate that naturally occurring and culturally induced stratigraphic differences in a suite of soil parameters, such as soil organic carbon and chemical elements, at the interface of near-surface soil horizons can be disrupted to varying degrees by military training and other (e.g., agricultural) human actions and (2) to use this predictable stratification as the basis for an innovative, low-cost, widely applicable, reliable method to identify the onset and quantify the extent of adverse impacts to archaeological deposits that are associated with military training. Results indicated that significant treatment group by depth interactions for carbon, pH, total phosphorus, and extractable calcium, magnesium, manganese, and nickel indicated divergence in distribution of soil variables with depth that could be attributed to physical disturbance (mixing, inversion, or burial). Top-to-total, total-to-soluble, and leachable-to-nonleachable ratios were only developed on small subsets of data from each installation as proof of concept exercises, but preliminary analyses indicate these types of derived ratios may be promising areas for continued research.

Technical Abstract: Military training is often assumed to negatively impact archaeological resources, but methodologies to estimate or infer damage to these resources are expensive and time consuming. Cultural resources managers require a technique allowing them to estimate past and current impacts of training on archaeological site condition and determine if the site is capable of supporting future training activities. The technical objectives of this research were (1) to demonstrate that naturally occurring and culturally induced stratigraphic differences in a suite of soil parameters, such as soil organic carbon and chemical elements, at the interface of near-surface soil horizons can be disrupted to varying degrees by military training and other (e.g., agricultural) human actions and (2) to use this predictable stratification as the basis for an innovative, low-cost, widely applicable, reliable method to identify the onset and quantify the extent of adverse impacts to archaeological deposits that are associated with military training. Results indicated that significant treatment group by depth interactions for carbon, pH, total phosphorus, and extractable calcium, magnesium, manganese, and nickel indicated divergence in distribution of soil variables with depth that could be attributed to physical disturbance (mixing, inversion, or burial). Top-to-total, total-to-soluble, and leachable-to-nonleachable ratios were only developed on small subsets of data from each installation as proof of concept exercises, but preliminary analyses indicate these types of derived ratios may be promising areas for continued research.

Last Modified: 4/20/2014