Anthropogenic Soil Change in Ancient and Traditional Agriculture

Date and Time: 
Thursday, 17 March, 2016 - 10:30
, Jonathan - Iowa State University
, Jeffrey - Statistical Research, Inc.

Soils form the foundation resource of agriculture, and are changed by farming deliberately through management, and unintentionally. Soil change from agriculture ranges from wholesale transformation to ephemeral and subtle modification. The archaeological record of early agricultural systems holds information about soil change on century to millennial scales, with important implications for long-term soil condition and land use sustainability. Knowledge of early agricultural management can also be inferred from soils, including farming strategies in challenging, uncertain environments. This paper discusses soil change processes and outcomes mainly using studies of ancient and traditional agriculture in arid regions of the Americas. The potential and limitations of soil change research methods in ancient agriculture are also considered. Soil anthropogenic change involves complex, interactive physical, chemical, and biological processes across a wide range of spatial and time scales. Soil change outcomes in early agriculture relating to soil health and productivity vary from degradation to improvement.