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A glance at methods – Micromorphology

Archaeological finds are usually embedded in anthropogenic and natural sediments which accumulated during or after the occupation of caves, rock shelters or open-air sites.

The sediment properties hold intriguing information on the temporal sequence of occupations, the use of the sites and on the depositional context of each artefact found therein. Detailed macroscopic and laboratory studies of sediments by experts of natural sciences have thus become an indispensable component of modern excavations.

Micromorphological studies are needed to identify the mineral and organic components of sediments and their spatial arrangement. Sediment blocks are extracted from profiles, dried and impregnated with artificial resin. After hardening of the blocks, thin sections, about 30 µm thick, can be prepared and analyzed with the help of a polarizing microscope. In the CRC, we are currently using micromorphology to better understand the formation of such diverse archaeological sites as, for instance, Palaeolithic cave sequences in the Iberian Peninsula, Ethiopia and Egypt, Epipalaeolithic to Neolithic rock shelter sequences with shell middens in North Morocco or Neolithic settlements in loess landscapes of the Lower Rhine valley. We also apply micromorphology to unravel sediment accumulation and alteration processes in terrestrial archives at off-site archaeological excavations in order to detect events of climate and environmental change in the past.

 

C1 Kehl 2-Fig A-D lhk 250px
(A) Sampling of a sediment block from the sequence at Ifri Oudadane, Northern Morocco, image width is 50 cm; (B) Thin section from the centre of the block showing abundant charcoal and mollusk shell fragments and ash layer; width of image 6 cm; (C) Microscopic image with coprolites reflecting use of the cave as a goat or sheep shelter; width of image 0.58 mm; (D) Same as C, but crossed polarized light.
Photos: Martin Kehl

Project

Corings in the Zafarraya Polje (Andalucia, Souther...

Corings in the Zafarraya Polje (Andalucia, Southern Spain)

The Zafarraya Polje is an endorheic tectonic basin (about 20 km2) located in the external zone of the Betic Cordillera. The nature...

Lake Banyoles - First off-site archive for palaeoc...

Lake Banyoles - First off-site archive for palaeoclimatic reconstruction on the Iberian Peninsula

During our field campaign in October 2010 a sediment core was collected from Banyoles Lake, drilled by our colleague Ramon Julià f...

Lake Como - Palaeoenvironmental archive in the Wes...

Lake Como - Palaeoenvironmental archive in the Western Mediterranean

Investigations of a 65 m long sediment core from Lake Como (northern Italy) have recently been initiated in cooperation with Prof....

A glance at methods – Micromorphology

A glance at methods – Micromorphology

Archaeological finds are usually embedded in anthropogenic and natural sediments which accumulated during or after the occupation...

Fieldwork in September 2012 – Sampling for lumines...

Fieldwork in September 2012 – Sampling for luminescence dating and micromorphology

In autumn 2012, colleagues from the geochronology lab (project F2) and members of the C1-team visited several rock shelter sites i...

Laguna de Fuente de Piedra – Sediment cores from a...

Laguna de Fuente de Piedra – Sediment cores from a perennial salt lake in southern Spain for palaeoenvironmental reconstruction

Fieldwork in Spain in March 2012 saw the drilling of more than 100 metres of sediment cores from small lakes and lagunas in southe...

Fieldworks in Abrigo del Molino (Segovia, Central...

Fieldworks in Abrigo del Molino (Segovia, Central Spain)

Abrigo del Molino is a new Mousterian site in Central Spain discovered in 2012 in the frame of the research project "Primeros Pobl...

Middle to Upper Palaeolithic Transition at Cuevas...

Middle to Upper Palaeolithic Transition at Cuevas de Los Casares?

The last week of September 2014, three members of the C1-Project flew to Madrid to support a Spanish team of archaeologists in Los...

Between darkness and brightness: Preparation of fi...

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From 20th until 23rd of January, some members of C1 project, together with Dr. Andreas Pastoors (Neanderthal Museum, Mettmann), we...

Way down South – Conference and excavation in Spai...

Way down South – Conference and excavation in Spain

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Trips to South and East Europe

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From November 24th to December 2nd in 2015, part of the C1-team carried out a second campaign in the Palaeolithic cave Ardales in...

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In C-Cluster, we cannot get enough of caves. This year, our excavation campaign in Ardales Cave (Málaga, Andalucia) was continued....

Mobility of hunter-gatherer groups at the Universi...

Mobility of hunter-gatherer groups at the University of the Basque Country. Vitoria 2016

The 21st of November, María de Andrés-Herrero, PhD candidate in the C1 project, was invited as guest-speaker to participate in the...

Prehistoric rock art and mobile art conference in...

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Last year, Viviane Bolin attended the fifth ASP Conference (Art des Sociétées Préhistoriques) at the University of Santander (Cant...

International Conference on the Solturean

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Presenting our science to the public: CRC 806 at t...

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During this year’s „Day of Research“ (November 19th, 2017) in the Neanderthal Museum at Mettmann, scientists of the A- and C-Clust...

 

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