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Archaeological cereals as an isotope record of long-term soil health and anthropogenic amendment in southern Scandinavia

Gron, Kurt J. ; Larsson, Mikael LU ; Gröcke, Darren R. ; Andersen, Niels H. ; Andreasen, Marianne H. ; Bech, Jens Henrik ; Henriksen, Peter Steen ; Hilton, Robert G. ; Jessen, Mads Dengsø and Møller, Niels A. , et al. (2021) In Quaternary Science Reviews 253.
Abstract

Maintaining soil health is integral to agricultural production, and the archaeological record contains multiple lines of palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental proxy evidence that can contribute to the understanding and analysis of long-term trajectories of change that are key for contextualizing 21st century global environmental challenges. Soil is a capital resource and its nutrient balance is modified by agricultural activities, making it necessary to ensure soil productivity is maintained and managed through human choices and actions. Since prehistory this has always been the case; soil is a non-renewable resource within a human lifetime. Here, we present and interpret carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of charred cereals from... (More)

Maintaining soil health is integral to agricultural production, and the archaeological record contains multiple lines of palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental proxy evidence that can contribute to the understanding and analysis of long-term trajectories of change that are key for contextualizing 21st century global environmental challenges. Soil is a capital resource and its nutrient balance is modified by agricultural activities, making it necessary to ensure soil productivity is maintained and managed through human choices and actions. Since prehistory this has always been the case; soil is a non-renewable resource within a human lifetime. Here, we present and interpret carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of charred cereals from southern Scandinavia. Anthropogenic effects on soils are evident from the initiation of farming 6000 years ago, as is amendment to counteract its effects. The earliest cereals were planted on pristine soils, and by the late Neolithic, agriculture extensified. By the Iron Age it was necessary to significantly amend depleted soils to maintain crop yields. We propose that these data provide a record of soil water retention, net precipitation and amendment. From the start of the Neolithic there is a concurrent decrease in both Δ13C and δ15N, mitigated only by the replacement of soil organic content in the form of manure in the Iron Age. The cereal isotopes provide a record of trajectories of agricultural sustainability and anthropogenic adaptation for nearly the entire history of farming in the region.

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type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Agriculture, Archaeology, Cereal isotopes, Soil health, Sustainability
in
Quaternary Science Reviews
volume
253
article number
106762
publisher
Elsevier
external identifiers
  • scopus:85099244268
ISSN
0277-3791
DOI
10.1016/j.quascirev.2020.106762
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
2df3e81b-61ce-4dc5-a6f0-8b81e7abce26
date added to LUP
2021-01-25 08:58:42
date last changed
2021-02-05 13:35:48
@article{2df3e81b-61ce-4dc5-a6f0-8b81e7abce26,
  abstract     = {<p>Maintaining soil health is integral to agricultural production, and the archaeological record contains multiple lines of palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental proxy evidence that can contribute to the understanding and analysis of long-term trajectories of change that are key for contextualizing 21st century global environmental challenges. Soil is a capital resource and its nutrient balance is modified by agricultural activities, making it necessary to ensure soil productivity is maintained and managed through human choices and actions. Since prehistory this has always been the case; soil is a non-renewable resource within a human lifetime. Here, we present and interpret carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of charred cereals from southern Scandinavia. Anthropogenic effects on soils are evident from the initiation of farming 6000 years ago, as is amendment to counteract its effects. The earliest cereals were planted on pristine soils, and by the late Neolithic, agriculture extensified. By the Iron Age it was necessary to significantly amend depleted soils to maintain crop yields. We propose that these data provide a record of soil water retention, net precipitation and amendment. From the start of the Neolithic there is a concurrent decrease in both Δ<sup>13</sup>C and δ<sup>15</sup>N, mitigated only by the replacement of soil organic content in the form of manure in the Iron Age. The cereal isotopes provide a record of trajectories of agricultural sustainability and anthropogenic adaptation for nearly the entire history of farming in the region.</p>},
  author       = {Gron, Kurt J. and Larsson, Mikael and Gröcke, Darren R. and Andersen, Niels H. and Andreasen, Marianne H. and Bech, Jens Henrik and Henriksen, Peter Steen and Hilton, Robert G. and Jessen, Mads Dengsø and Møller, Niels A. and Nielsen, Finn Ole and Nielsen, Poul Otto and Pihl, Anders and Sørensen, Lasse and Westphal, Jørgen and Rowley-Conwy, Peter and Church, Mike J.},
  issn         = {0277-3791},
  language     = {eng},
  publisher    = {Elsevier},
  series       = {Quaternary Science Reviews},
  title        = {Archaeological cereals as an isotope record of long-term soil health and anthropogenic amendment in southern Scandinavia},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2020.106762},
  doi          = {10.1016/j.quascirev.2020.106762},
  volume       = {253},
  year         = {2021},
}