Pedology in arid lands archaeological research: An example from southern New Mexico--Western Texas

TitlePedology in arid lands archaeological research: An example from southern New Mexico--Western Texas
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1995
AuthorsH. Monger C
EditorCollins M.E
Book TitlePedological perspectives in archaeological research
VolumeSpecial Publication 44
PublisherSoil Science Society of America
CityMadison, WI
Accession NumberJRN00193
Call Number00661
Keywordsarcheology, dunes & artifacts, book, books, chapter, chapters, pedology, report, reports, soil, geomorphology

Pedology is a key component of arid lands archaeological research, providing information about landscape evolution, the stratigraphic context of artifacts, and environmental change. As an example, a pedologic study was conducted for archaeologists at the Fort Bliss Military Installation, which covers slightly >445 000 hectares of the northern Chihuahuan desert in southern New Mexico and western Texas. Part one of the study consisted of (i) mapping geomorphic surfaces and (ii) mapping deflated areas. Maps of geomorphic surfaces reveal the age and evolution of the arid landscape, and where archaeological sites might be buried. Deflation maps reveal areas where soils are deflated, stable, or recently buried. Artifact visibility is highest in deflated areas, but the stratigraphic integrity is generally lost. Areas buried by eolian sands, on the other hand, are most likely to contain artifacts with stratigraphic integrity, but artifact visibility is low. Part two of the study focused on paleoenvironmental changes. The most useful paleoenvironmental information was obtained from erosion-sedimentation history, fossil pollen preserved in buried soils, and 13C and 18O signatures in soil carbonates. Erosion, pollen, isotopes all revealed a major period of desertification beginning at the middle Holocene about the time Paleoindians gave way to people of the Archaic period.