Topsoil formation processes as indicated from geoarchaeological investigations at tel ‘Eton, Israel, and its environment

Yair Sapir, Pariente Sarah, Yuval Sapir, Hayah Katz, Avraham Faust

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The first encounter between archaeologists and the sites or areas of their study is the topsoil. Still, very little attention is paid to the processes that create the matrix of the topsoil and the archaeological assemblage contained within it, and hence to what data can be obtained from it. This paper, which is part of a larger study on the formation of the archaeological record at Tel ‘Eton, aims to reconstruct the way the topsoil was formed. For this purpose, we studied not only the mound's topsoil and archaeological layers below it, but also the site's environment, in terms of texture (sedimentation/decantation method), color (Munsell charts), phosphate concentration (Olsen method) and vegetation (aboveground plant biomass). Results showed differentiation between the sampling groups and geographical settings in all the measured parameters – in both values and variance. The data imply that the mound’s topsoil was created by an upward movement of materials and their homogenization in the topsoil. Our results strongly suggest that these processes are likely to be more frequent on mounds, compared to their uninhabited environment. Beyond new insights on the processes of archaeological soil formation, this study has implications for both chemical and archaeological phenomena, such as the presence of artifacts on the surface, the color of archaeological soils, the widespread use of archaeological sites for agriculture (from antiquity to the 20th century), and the provenance of mud-brick material.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-107
Number of pages23
JournalMediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, University of AEGEAN. All rights reserved.


  • Archaeological Record
  • Environment
  • Faunalturbation
  • Matrix Composition; Anthropogenic soil
  • Plant-Soil Feedback
  • Site Formation Processes
  • Topsoil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Conservation
  • Archaeology
  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology


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