Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-2020-51
https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-2020-51

  30 Sep 2020

30 Sep 2020

Review status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal SOIL.

Origin, distribution, and characteristics of Archaeological Dark Earth soils – A review

Michael O. Asare1, Jerry Owusu Afriyie2, and Michal Hejcman1 Michael O. Asare et al.
  • 1Department of Ecology, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Czech University of LifeSciences, Prague, Kamýcká 129, Prague 6 – Suchdol CZ165 00, Czech Republic
  • 2Department of Animal Science and Food Processing in the Tropics, Faculty of Tropical AgriSciences, Czech University of Life Sciences, Kamycka 129, Prague 6 – Suchdol CZ165 00, Czech Republic

Abstract. Archaeological Dark Earth (ADE) is a layer of anthrosol (syn. anthroposol) visually characterized by dark color mainly due to homogenous charcoal inclusion, and substantial enrichment by nutrients in comparison to surrounding soils. ADE is distributed from the tropics (Amazonian Terra preta, African ADE), moderate climatic zones (European ADE) up to the Arctic (kitchen middens). Although ADE soils have been studied also in other regions of the world, they have no special regional names. All types of ADE developed as a result of deliberate and/or unintentional deposition of domestic/occupational wastes, charred residues, bones, shells, and biomass ashes from prehistoric up to recent times. ADEs have optimum C : N ratio for effective mineralization, stable organic matter content, reduced acidity, higher CEC and C, N, P, Ca, Mn, Cu, Zn, Mn, Mg, Fe, Sr, and Ba content in comparison to surrounding soils. The unclear remains the level of ADEs enrichment by these elements as enrichment factors for different elements are based on different analytical approaches from plants-available up to total contents in the soil. Although generally highly productive, comparison of herbage production and crop yields between ADEs and natural soils are still rare. The distribution and persistence of anthropogenic activities leading to the formation of ADEs indicate that they are subject to the continual formation.

Michael O. Asare et al.

 
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Michael O. Asare et al.

Michael O. Asare et al.

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Short summary
Archaeological Dark Earth (ADE) is distributed from the tropics (Amazonian Terra preta, African ADE), moderate climatic zones (European ADE) up to the Arctic (kitchen middens). ADEs have stable organic matter content, reduced acidity, higher CEC, and C, N, P, Ca, Mn, Cu, Zn, Mn, Mg, Fe, Sr, and Ba content compared to surrounding soils. Although generally productive, comparison of herbage production and crop yields between ADEs and natural soils are still rare.