The “state factor” approach in geoarchaeology

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The study of soils has long been an important component of geoarchaeology (the application of geosciences to archaeological problems). The widest applications of soil science have involved soil chemistry (for detecting the presence, nature, and intensity of human occupation) and the identification of soils as stratigraphic markers and their use as paleoenvironmental indicators. The “state factor” approach to pedology significantly increases the potential applications of soil studies in archaeological contexts. Chronosequences are useful in dating and correlating sites and for predicting the occurrence of sites of a given age. Consideration of the time factor also can profoundly influence interpretations of occupation zones in buried soils. Toposequences and lithosequences can be important in understanding and interpreting environmental change in an archaeological site and, along with biosequences, are useful in (i) reconstructing the relationship of human occupations to paleolandscapes and landscape evolution (ii) reconstructing paleoenvironments. Understanding and interpretation of soil stratigraphy in archaeological contexts also can be greatly enhanced by consideration of the state factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationFactors of Soil Formation
Subtitle of host publicationA Fiftieth Anniversary Retrospective
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9780891189282
ISBN (Print)9780891188049
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Archaeological pedology
  • Geoarchaeology
  • Soil formation
  • Soil properties
  • State factor approach
  • Stratigraphic marker

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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