Monday, September 27, 2010

Water, Oxen, and Thousands of Years

You might be wondering what these three things have in common. Well, unfortunately for archeologists and us, they all act in conjunction to make site analysis more difficult.

Now there have been studies in the past which have looked at the effect of stamping goats, oxen, and even elephants upon the distribution of artifacts, but apparently all of those studies worked with dry soils, not marshy or water-laden strata. notes that:
[researchers from Southern Methodist University] noticed that peppering the valley floor were hardened hoof prints left from the previous monsoon season, as well as fresh prints along the stream banks. Seeing that the tracks sunk quite deeply into the ground, the researchers began to suspect that stone artifacts scattered on the edges of water bodies could be displaced significantly from their original location by animal trampling.

The significance of these results can not be overstated as is shown in this quote from student Metin I. Eren.
A vertical displacement of 21 centimeters in some cases might equal thousands of years when we try to figure out the age of an artifact," Eren said. "This amount of disturbance is more than any previously documented experiment — and certainly more than we anticipated.

"Experimental Examination of Animal Trampling Effects on Artifact Movement in Dry and Water Saturated Substrates: A Test Case from South India" was published by the Journal of Archaeological Science.

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