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Wageningen University (2010)

The distribution of anthropogenic soil layers in Horvat Haluqim, Israel : analyses in a historical context

Asperen, H. van

Titre : The distribution of anthropogenic soil layers in Horvat Haluqim, Israel : analyses in a historical context

Auteur : Asperen, H. van

Université de soutenance : Wageningen University

Grade : Master of Science (MS) 2010

The Negev is a desert in the southern part of Israel. The region is probably inhabited since 10.000 years and agriculture was practised during some periods. In this arid region, rain fed agriculture is not feasible and a specialized form of agriculture was practised in the past : runoff farming. A runoff farming system collects runoff water generated by local rainfall that has fallen in a certain catchment by use of terraces and terrace walls in the wadi Horvat Haluqim is an Iron Age village in the Central Negev Highlands, where remnants of runoff farming practises were found. In one of the terraces, a dark (agricultural) anthropogenic soil layer was found containing remnants of manure and pieces of charcoal. 14C dating of this layer gave Late Bronze/Early Iron Age dates. The main objective of this study was to investigate the distribution and the properties (texture and charcoal concentration) of the anthropogenic layer trough the wadi. Furthermore, the use of land snail analyses for this type of research was analyzed. An attempt was made to further narrow the age estimation of the anthropogenic layers and to investigate the plausibility of them being a product of terraced wadi-runoff farming practises. Ten new soil pits were made in five different terraces. An anthropogenic layer was found in every investigated terrace. The anthropogenic layers were darker in color than the surrounding layers and had a weaker structure grade. Structural differences in texture between anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic layers were not observed. Anthropogenic layers were observed to be thicker and to be located deeper in the terraces upstream in the wadi. Differences in the color of the anthropogenic layer between different terraces was observed. Within terraces, the anthropogenic layer seemed more pronounced closer to the downstream terrace wall. Some anthropogenic layer were situated too deep to be a product of the (visible) terrace walls and these anthropogenic layers being a product of terraced wadi-runoff farming practises is questioned. Anthropogenic layers did not show a clear relationship with the location of the ancient dwellings. Nevertheless, it should be considered that all conclusions are based on very few observations. Measured charcoal values ranged between 0.05 % and 0.19 %. The average measured charcoal content for anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic layers was 0.103 % respectively 0.102 %. A positive relation was found between observed color in the field and measured charcoal content. However, differences between the different layers were statistically insignificant and the used charcoal quantification method was considered not be accurate for concentrations lower than 0.5 %. Land snails were sampled in Horvat Haluqim at five different depths and the isotopic oxygen composition of their shells was analyzed. Measured values were compared to a known historical trend and, by this, an estimation of the age of the land snail, and the soil layer it derived from, could be obtained. However, in this project, land snail shell analyses could not add more accuracy to the already existing 14C-age estimations of the soil layers.

Mots clés : desert soils / israel / anthropogenic horizons / runoff farming / terraces / soil conservation / snails


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