Boletín de la Sociedad Geológica Mexicana

Volumen 74, núm. 3, A080822, 2022



Micromorphological features of medieval cultural layers formed in different environmental backgrounds


Rasgos micromorfológicos de los estratos culturales medievales formadas en diferentes entornos ambientales


Maria A. Bronnikova1,*, Julia O. Karpova1, Veronika V. Murasheva2, Anna F. Kochkina3, Dmitry A. Stashenkov3, Irina A. Arzhantseva4,5, Heinrich Härke5,6


Institute of Geography, Russian Academy of Sciences, 119017, Moscow, Russian Federation.

State Historical Museum, 109012, Moscow, Russian Federation.

Samara Regional History and Natural History Museum named after P.V. Alabin, 443041, Samara, Russian Federation.

Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology Russian Academy of Science, 119334, Moscow, Russian Federation.

Institute for Oriental and Classical Studies, Higher School of Economics University, 105066, Moscow, Russian Federation.

Department of Medieval Archaeology, Tübingen University, D-72070 Tübingen, Germany.

* Corresponding author: (M.A. Bronnikova) This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


How to cite this article:

Bronnikova, M.A., Karpova, J.O., Murasheva, V.V., Kochkina, A.F., Stashenkov, D.A., Arzhantseva, I.A., Härke, H., 2022, Micromorphological features of medieval cultural layers formed in different environmental backgrounds: Boletín de la Sociedad Geológica Mexicana, 74 (3), A080822.

Manuscript received: December 18, 2021; Corrected manuscript received: June 20, 2022; Manuscript accepted: Agust 1, 2022.




This research compares results of micromorphological case studies conducted on four early medieval archaeological sites with differentiated spatialization of human impacts and a varied craft production located in different background environments: humid climate, subzone of mixed forests, floodplain of the Dnieper River (Gnezdovo site); semi-humid climate, subzone of forest-steppe, Middle Volga region (Muromsky Gorodok and Malaya Ryazan’ sites); arid climate, cold desert of the Aral region, ancient delta-alluvial plain of the Syr-Darya River (Dzhankent site). Micromorphological studies of habitation deposits revealed clear geographical and geochemical regularities in the occurrence of geogenic (soil, sedimentary and post-sedimentary) features. Intrasoil migration and accumulation of clay and coarser silicate material in textural pedofeatures were described in cultural layers of sites located in forest and the forest-steppe zones. An anthropogenic input of phosphates provokes simultaneous migration and illuvial accumulation of phosphates and clay. In the habitation deposits in steppe landscapes with calcareous lithology, the key background soil process is redistribution and intrasoil accumulation of calcium carbonates. In the alluvial desert landscape, major soil processes are accumulation of gypsum and readily soluble salts. All layers are or were affected by at least some seasonal over-moisturizing that resulted in a variety of redoximorphic features depending on their palaeo- and/or contemporary water regime. The high variety of anthropogenic processes and corresponding microfeatures was grouped as follows: (1) input, output, turbation, compaction; (2) neoformation and migration; (3) pyrogenic processes (products); technological processes (products). The set of anthropogenic features records past human impact in the locality. The higher the variety of anthropogenic features and their general abundance is, the more intensive and variable the human impact which had occurred in the past. At the same time, the occurrence of certain anthropogenic features may indicate not only human-related processes of their formation (or input), but also a contemporary soil environment. This environment can be favorable, or, in the opposite, deteriorative for earlier formed anthropogenic features.

Keywords: cultural layers, micromorphology, anthropogenic processes, geogenic processes, environmental conditions.