Environmental soil science

Iowa Lakeside Laboratory Archaeological Field School

by John Doershuk, State Archaeologist, University of Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist

I had an especially interesting day of archaeology recently that involved my annual archaeological field school class interacting with students from a soils class that was learning to use a Giddings Rig. Lee Burras, Agronomy Professor at Iowa State University, and I both taught courses this summer at the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory, located on West Okoboji Lake, Dickinson County, Iowa. We arranged to have his soils class pull two 3-inch solid cores at 13DK143, the Prairie Lakes Woodland archaeological site my students were investigating. I spent some time discussing archaeological field methods and the context of 13DK143 with Lee’s students so they could better understand how archaeologists think about site formation and taphonomy issues as they relate to soils. Lee in turn discussed the mechanics of soil development with the archaeology students and they gained a far more nuanced understanding than I can provide about why the matrix they were digging looks and feels the way it does and how it came to be. As always, Lee and I found we both learned new things from one another as well as from the process of explaining our respective science to these students.

A Giddings rig set up near archaeological test units.

A Giddings rig set up near archaeological test units.

a Giddings rig soil core machine

The Giddings Rig

A soil core sample from site 12DK143, with deeper layers at top of photo.

A soil core sample from site 12DK143, with deeper layers at top of photo.

 

Virgil Yendell: Geoarchaeologist and his lovely sediments

Here are some shots of a trial pit under a former pub in Victoria. The lovely sediments from the base show c. 10,000 yr old fluvial gravels over lain by sandy deposits of a substantial tributary of the Thames, possibly the Tyburn, running through Victoria. During the prehistoric this river appears to have silted up and a waterlogged woodland is evident from the brown peaty deposits, which later developed into possible clayey water meadows that would have been used for pasture during the historic period.