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The Story the Soil tells

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Laura Pellegrini.

Soil samples from archaeological sites may be analysed through several means, included through the analysis of the microscopic pollen, phytoliths, and charcoal held therein. Whereas pollen may tell us about the trees and shrubs (both dryland and wetland) that formed an ancient landscape, non-pollen palymorphs serve as indicators of past environments by indicating which algae, fibres, fungal spores and plant fragments can be found in the soil under study. After soil samples are impregnated with resin and thin section slides of them created, they may be described and put under light microscopes to analyse their photomicrographs. Micromorphological studies of soils and sediments help us identify how sediments and surface soils formed. They may also help us find out about what vegetation cover ancient landscapes were characterized by. The chemical analysis of soil may help us track organic matter, phosphate, pH, salinity and other characteristics of a soil that indicate, among other things, human activity. It is these two latter aspects of soil analysis (micromorphology and soil chemistry) that I will focus on with respect to early to mid-Holocene archaeological site in the south Caribbean – Trinidad to be specific.

Bio Chike Pilgrim is a writer, historian and archaeologist. He holds degrees in History from the University of the West Indies and a degree in Archaeology from the University of Oxford. He is currently a second year PhD in Archaeology here at the University of Cambridge. His interests include: the Archaeology of the Caribbean and the Global South, Landscape Historical Ecology, Geoarchaeology, Bioarchaeology and Stable Isotope Analysis, and Maritime Archaeology. His current studies are concerned with the settlement of the Caribbean islands during the Holocene and the resultant effect of this settlement on the ecology of the islands.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Science Seminars series.

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