Wilson C & Davidson D (2009) An evaluation of the site specificity of soil elemental signatures for identifying and interpreting former functional areas. Journal of Archaeological Science, 36 (10), pp. 2327-2334. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/03054403; https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2009.06.022
Soil multi-element analysis is now a routine technique employed to help answer questions about space use and function in and around archaeological sites. The pattern of enhancement of certain elements, including P, Pb, Ca, Zn, and Cu, has been shown by numerous studies to correlate closely with the archaeological and historical record. Interpretation of these soil signatures, however, has generally been more problematic. One approach to the problem has been the use of ethnographic or “known” sites to guide interpretation, but how confidently can results from one site be extrapolated to another? This study of abandoned farms tests the site specificity of soil multi-element signatures of past space use through the use of discriminant models. Data analysis suggests that one to one comparisons of similar sites are much less accurate (38% accuracy) than comparisons based on a wider range of sites (59.3% accuracy), even when the latter have contrasting geology. The results highlight the importance of individual anthropogenic practices during occupation and abandonment in the development of diagnostic soil geochemical signatures.
Geoarchaeology; Multi-element analysis; Functional areas; Space use; Soil science in archaeology Scotland; Archaeological geology; Soils Analysis
Journal of Archaeological Science: Volume 36, Issue 10