image/svg+xml169 VII/2/2016 InterdIscIplInarIa archaeologIca natural scIences In archaeology homepage: Negative Efects of Late Bronze Age Human Activity on Modern Soils and Landscapes, a Case-study on the Muradymovo Settlement, Urals, Russia Alexandra Golyeva a* , Olga Khokhlova b , Nikolai Shcherbakov c , Iia Shuteleva c a Institute of Geography, Russian Academy of Sciences, Staromonetniy pereulok 29, 119017 Moscow, Russia b Institute of Physicochemical and Biological Problems of Soil Science – Pushchino Scientifc Centre, Russian Academy of Sciences, 142290 Pushchino, Moscow Region, Russia c Archaeological Laboratory of Bashkir State Pedagogical University, Oktyabrskoy Revolutsii street 3a, Ufa, Bashkortostan, Russia 1. Introduction Pedological studies on archaeological sites can often help to reconstruct the palaeoenvironment of an archaeological monument’s functioning period (Weiss, Courty 1993; Redman 1999; Vrydaghs, Devos 2007; Zielinski et al. 2011; Sánchez-Pérez et al. 2013 and many others). This allows archaeologists to better understand the life-styles and economic activities of the ancient people and their interactions with the palaeoenvironment (Engovatova, Golyeva 2012; Jankowski, Kittel 2012; Goldie 2013; Markiewicz et al. 2013).In some cases, the human impact on ancient landscapes has been so profound that local soils still remain signifcantly afected even after hundreds and thousands of years (Bettis 1988; Lima et al. 2002). There are no natural soils left within such sites, being replaced by completely diferent anthropogenic soils with specifc properties (Woods, McCann 1999; Nicocia et al. 2011; Antisari et al. 2013; Pawłowski et al. 2015; Thy et al. 2015).Studying the causes and implications of such negative infuences of past human activities on soils and the environment is necessary to prevent similar accidents in the future. We believe this is an important research area at the present time, when anthropogenic pressures on the environment are increasing.The present article describes a case-study of the extremely severe and long-lasting impact of ancient people on their soils and environment. The study site is the Late Bronze Age settlement of Muradymovo located in the Bashkortostan Republic (Urals region, Russia). The site and its area have a peculiar “hillocky” microrelief that does not occur anywhere else in the Bashkortostan Republic. The local residents assumed that the hillocks were old tree stumps overgrown with grass, but we suggested that they were traces of ancient human activity. According to the archaeological Volume VII ● Issue 2/2016 ● Pages 169–178 *Corresponding author. E-mail: ARtICtle Info Article history: Received: 23 rd March 2016Accepted: 28 th December 2016 Key words: ancient settlementmodern soilpropertiesgypsumtransformation rate ABStRACt The study site is the Late Bronze Age (1750–1350 BC cal) settlement of Muradymovo located in the Urals, Russia (53°58′44.8″ N, 55°30′58.8″ E). Despite the presence of a humid climate, the modern soils of the study site contain more than 27% of gypsum at a depth of just 10 cm from the surface and have a microrelief typical of a gypsum desert. The nearby background Chernozems are gypsum-free to a depth of 2 metres. The ancient people of the “Srubno-Alakul” archaeological culture had a tradition of building their houses from gypsum rock. This is an excellent construction material in dry climates, but dissolves quickly under humid conditions. According to the archaeological data, the ancient people rebuilt their houses more than fve times within a period of 200 years, thereby bringing a lot of gypsum to this site, which was later abandoned. At the present time, this area is still unsuitable for human settlement, because the water of the nearest small river is still contaminated by gypsum and has a bitter taste. The properties of modern soils directly afected by Late Bronze Age human activities have been identifed as a result of our studies on soil morphology and chemistry (pH, Corg., P tot , gypsum and calcium carbonate concentrations). Remarkably, there is residual soil contamination by gypsum even after 3,500 years since the abandonment of the site.
image/svg+xmlIANSA 2016 ● VII/2 ● 169–178Alexandra Golyeva, Olga Khokhlova, Nikolai Shcherbakov, Iia Shuteleva: Negative Efects of Late Bronze Age Human Activity on Modern Soils and Landscapes, a Case-study on the Muradymovo Settlement, Urals, Russia 170 data (Shcherbakov et al. 2013; Shcharbakov et al. 2015), the Muradymovo people belonged to the “Srubno-Alakul” culture of the Late Bronze Age and came here from an extra arid semidesert region of the southern Kazakhstan, where they used to build their houses of gypsum rock. There is a deposit of gypsum rock just 5 km away from the Muradymovo settlement site.Gypsum is an excellent construction material in the driest parts of arid regions, for example, within depressions that remain from former inland lakes or seas (Rosen, Warren 1990; Bolen et al. 1991). However, in humid climates gypsum is soluble and houses made of it undergo rapid degradation. The residual piles of gypsum rock account for the appearance of the aforementioned hillocky microrelief of the study site (Slavnyi 2003). A similar microrelief typically occurs in deserts (Gorbunova 1977; Watson 1985; Eckardt 2001; Warren 2006), but would not be expected to be found in this humid region of Urals. In addition, the ancient settlement site Muradymovo is located on a hill, and not within a depression.The aim of our study was to investigate the properties of modern soils at the Bronze Age settlement site and understand more about the factors that led to their formation and transformation. 2. Materials and methods2.1 Materials 2.1.1 Location and natural conditions at the site The study site (53°58′44.8″ N, 55°30′58.8″ E) is located 2.5 km north of the village of Muradymovo, in the Aurgazinskiy District of the Bashkortostan Republic of Russia (Figure 1.1–2). The site of the Muradymovo ancient settlement with a total area of 6 ha is found within the Kamsko-Belsky Depression with generally a levelled topography resulting from denudation processes, on the frst terrace of the right bank of the Urshak River, 0.2 km east of the mainstream, on a hill about 1.5–2 m high (Figure 1.4). The bedrock is composed of gypsum, anhydrite, dolomite and sandstone of the Kungur stage of the Permian Period. The bedrock is overlain by loess-like silty sediments of the Quaternary Period that serve as parent rocks for the soils.The climate is continental, moderately cold. The mean annual air temperature is +2.5°С, the mean temperatures of January and July being –15°С and +19.5°С, respectively. The frost-free period lasts 140 days, being the longest within the Bashkortostan Republic. The mean annual precipitation is about 500 mm, with more than 300 mm falling during the growing season. The hydrothermal coefcient is about 1 (Atlas of the Bashkortostan Republic, 2005).The typical modern vegetation is represented by steppe communities.The typical soils are Greyzemic Chernozems (WRB, 2014) that are naturally gypsum-free to a depth of 2 metres (Bogomolov 1954; Khaziev 2007). 2.1.2 Archaeology According to the archaeological data (Obydennova et al. 2008; Shuteleva et al. 2010), the settlement was built by ancient people of the “Srubno-Alakul” archaeological culture of the Late Bronze Age (1750–1350 BC cal), who lived here for no longer than 200–300 years. Later the settlement remained abandoned. At present, the site is covered with sparse steppe vegetation, partially used as a pasture and bordered by a gully from the west and north. There are six depressions (house pits) with areas from 260 to 300 m 2 and depths from 0.25 to 0.4 m recorded within the site.We studied two pits (houses III and IV) with the most representative morphology of cultural layers (Figures 2.2 and 2.3). Their past uses were diferent: pit III was a farm building whereas pit IV was an inhabited house. The distance between the pits was no more than 50 m (Figure 1.3). Pit III contained the remains of a farm building constructed on a single occasion and used for keeping cattle, as was indicated by the archaeological fnds. Pit IV included several layers of house remains (no less than 5) and a hearth, i.e. this residential house had been rebuilt several times.Two background soils outcropping from the banks of a small river opposite to each other at a short distance from the archaeological excavation site were also studied. These soils were least afected by the ancient settlement construction. The frst soil profle (background soil 1) was on the same river bank as the settlement and contained a white-coloured lens between the surface horizon and the humus horizon (Figure 2.1.1). The other profle (background soil 2) was on the opposite bank and had no traces of ancient human impact, such as a white lens near the surface of the frst profle (Figure 2.1.2).The modern microrelief consists of small hillocks separated by deep frost cracks, which cover the whole area of the study site and beyond, up to the banks of the river and gully. Frost cracks have resulted from the recent infuence of the continental climate. The hillocks are about 50 cm high and 1.5–2.2 m long (Figure 1.4). Such a peculiar microrelief is absent on the other side of the gully. 2.2 Methods Our study was designed to describe the morphological characteristics of the pits and profles in the feld (according to archaeological standards) and to conduct chemical analyses of the samples in the laboratory using conventional techniques (Arinushkina 1970; Vorobiova 1998; 2006). We collected samples in vertical columns from all pits and profles studied. The samples were dried and prepared according to the requirements for each specifc analysis. 2.2.1 Total phosphorus We determined the total phosphorus (P tot ), as we agree with Holliday and Gartner (2007) that P tot “seems to be the best indicator of human activity”. The procedure included sample combustion with concentrated sulfuric acid. Phosphate in the extract was determined calorimetrically using a SPECOL
image/svg+xmlIANSA 2016 ● VII/2 ● 169–178Alexandra Golyeva, Olga Khokhlova, Nikolai Shcherbakov, Iia Shuteleva: Negative Efects of Late Bronze Age Human Activity on Modern Soils and Landscapes, a Case-study on the Muradymovo Settlement, Urals, Russia 171 Figure 1. Study site locations: 1.1 Map of Russia with location of Muradymovo settlement (star) and areal map (Google) of Volga-Ural area with location of Muradymovo settlement (red ring). 1.2 Plan of the settlement area with excavated pits. 1.3 3D-reconstruction landscape of Muradymovo settlement by Golden Surfer Programme 9.0 Version. 1.4 Specifc micro-relief on the surface of ancient settlement.