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Munsell soil color charts
DEFINITION: A color identification system for sediment, soil, chert, pottery, and rock; an aid used in the physical examination and recording of objects where color is felt to be an essential or at least a significant aspect of the analysis. Devised by Albert H. Munsell, the three factors of hue, value, and chroma are taken into consideration, all rated on a scale of 0-10 and expressed quantitatively. Hue describes the colors of the spectrum present, value their concentration, and chroma their purity. The color of soil or, for example, pottery, can be matched in the chart and given a value, so that anyone with a similar set of charts can understand the exact color of the material. The method allows direct comparison of colors without physically moving the material, and is clearly preferable to the use of such subjective descriptions as 'reddish-brown' or 'yellowish-gray'. The charts are contained in a loose-leaf notebook with pages of hundreds of standardized color chips, each perforated with a hole through which the color of the soil or other material can be compared with the standard sample.
anthropic soil
CATEGORY: geology
DEFINITION: Soil formed by or related to human activity.
anthropogenic soil
CATEGORY: geology
DEFINITION: Soil that has been influenced by human activity - indicated by a concentration of phosphorus, organic matter, debris, or artifacts. The different soil and sediment components are physically mixed through cultivation, deforestation, or construction.
buried soil
CATEGORY: geology
DEFINITION: Any ancient land surface buried and undisturbed under a structure or within a deposit, such as peat. Buried soil reflects the nature of the soil, at least at a very local level, at the time the structure was erected or the natural deposit laid down. Buried soil may be analyzed for faunal, insect, molluscan, and pollen remains which would give information about the environment of the period. Such soils are frequently preserved under barrows, mounds, or ramparts, or buried within the fill of a ditch.
composite soil
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: welded soil, superimposed soil, polypedomorphic soil
CATEGORY: geology
DEFINITION: A soil profile that forces its features upon more than one parent material.
relict soil
CATEGORY: geology
DEFINITION: Soil formed on a pre-existing landscape but which was not subsequently buried under younger sediments. It must be taken into account that relict soils may represent a wide range of time periods.
CATEGORY: geology
DEFINITION: Mineral or organic matter that is unconsolidated and on or near the land surface. A prerequisite for soil formation is the growth of vegetation. Gradual colonization, first by lichens and then by higher plants causes build-up of organic matter (humus) in the developing soil. Clay minerals form complexes with humus and act as reservoirs of nutrients. Water from rainfall, entering the top of a soil profile, drains down the soil, taking with it nutrients and sometimes parts of the clay/humus complexes. The type of vegetation, the fauna of small animals that lives in the soil, the type of parent material, the way in which the clay/humus complexes behave, the amount of rainfall and the quality of drainage all go to determine the type of soil that develops. Soil forms differentiated layers (soil horizons) with respect to the land surface. The study of soils is called pedology. Studies of the way soils have developed may allow a reconstruction of the environmental changes which have taken place. Several complicated soil classification systems exist.
soil analysis
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The study of soil and subsoil to determine climate, vegetation, and human disturbance. It is used to assist the interpretation of deposits. Tools are primarily mechanical grading of particle size, determination of soil color, chemical tests like phosphate analysis, and pollen analysis.
soil chemistry
CATEGORY: related field
DEFINITION: Methods used to analyze the chemical composition of soils to determine if there was human settlement.
soil conductivity meter
DEFINITION: A geophysical instrument used in electromagnetic surveying for the detection of metal, but also for the location of archaeological features such as shallow pits, which have a different conductivity from the surrounding soil. The instrument has a transmitter coil which is fed with a continuous sinusoidal current, and a receiver coil; they are mounted at right angles to each other at opposite ends of a horizontal bar about a meter long. The instrument is designed to pick up differences in conductivity between features and the surrounding soil, i.e. the reverse of a resistivity meter. Resistivity surveying is considered more sensitive and versatile.
soil geomorphology
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: Study of the interaction of pedogenic and geomorphic processes to interpret landscapes. The physical context of archaeological material is determined and evaluated by soil geomorphic techniques.
soil horizon
CATEGORY: geology
DEFINITION: A layer in a soil developed through the natural weathering of geological and archaeological surfaces. It differs from related layers chemically, physically, or biologically. Sequences of related soil horizons make up the soil profile.
soil mark
CATEGORY: feature
DEFINITION: Any visible irregularity in the appearance of the soil surface, indicating traces of buried sites or features on the surface of plowed or otherwise disturbed ground. As revealed through aerial photography, a darker area may indicate human wastes, or a lighter area a former road or trail.
soil micromorphology
CATEGORY: related field
DEFINITION: The use of microscopic techniques to study the nature and organization of the components of soils.
soil profile
CATEGORY: feature; geology
DEFINITION: The vertical sequence of horizons in the soil which occur not as the result of stratification but as a result of weathering and other processes. The profile provides environmental or palaeoenvironmental information, such as information on vegetation and climate. The term also refers to a vertical section exposed in excavation or naturally that shows horizons and parent material. The soil profile is made up of some or all of the following: the A or humus horizon, the E or leached horizon, the B or (B) horizons or accumulation or chemical weathering, and the C horizon of parent material. Different soil profiles occur in different environmental regions, ranging from rendsinas, through brown earths, to podsols, gleys, and chernozems. The soil profile and the type of vegetation are interdependent, and man's activities have an effect on and are affected by both.
soil resistivity
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: electrical resistivity; soil resistivity surveying
CATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A remote sensing technique that monitors the degree of electrical resistance in soils - which often depends on moisture content - near the surface. Buried features are usually detected by a differential retention of groundwater.
soil stratigraphy
CATEGORY: related field
DEFINITION: A branch of stratigraphy in which soils are identified as stratigraphic units with specific chronological ordering. A pedostratigraphic unit is a three-dimensional, laterally traceable, buried sediment or rock with one or more soil horizons. It is not the same as the sequencing of soil horizons in a soil profile.
soil structure
CATEGORY: geology
DEFINITION: Physical arrangement of sediment into peds (a natural soil aggregate) as the result of pedogenesis (reproduction by young or larval animals). Soil has a structure on which its porosity-permeability depends. Soil structure is built up by alternate moistening and drying and plant roots contribute greatly by opening pores between soil aggregates. The stability of aggregates increases with humus content especially humus that originates from grass vegetation.
soil-sounding radar
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: soil interface radar
DEFINITION: A method of subsurface detection in which short radio pulses are sent through the soil; the echoes reflect back significant changes in soil conditions.

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