Integrated research in archaeology using soil micromorphology and palynology

M.J. Kooistra, L.I. Kooistra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Archaeologists often encounter problems in interpreting the genesis of layers and the context in which specific materials occur in excavations. Field visits of geologists, soil scientists or biologists can solve a number of questions, but often, problems remain that only can be studied by microscopic research as, for example, soil micromorphology and palynology. In the past, the employment of these two disciplines, one in earth science and one in biology, generally occurred independently of each other, also in interdisciplinary research and contract research. Consequently, results could not always be correlated, permitting only a restricted integration of data. It was realised that soils, as archives, contain much more information than generally utilised. A skillful employment and balancing of both specialties create a real integrated approach that offers a substantially improved interpretation potential without hardly additional efforts and costs. The results of 7 years of experience were very stimulating and presented here. In this article, the essence of soil micromorphology and palynology applied to archaeology is briefly outlined and illustrated by selected examples of the different research themes covered, showing the possibilities and results of integrated research. Both specialties generate essential information that, when combined and integrated properly, lead to improved understanding of the landscape genesis and human activities in the past. To be able to employ the full interpretive potential of this integrated approach, the research procedures followed by both specialties had to be compared. The key requirements for optimal integration of each other's databases comprised a combined effort to compare the pros and cons during the first four steps of the research procedure: defining research questions, field survey, selection of sampling locations and sampling. This approach enabled optimal correlation of the individual results, made cross-checking and references possible and led to higher levels of interpretation that would not have been possible otherwise. The integrated research elucidated lacunae in the other's discipline, resulting in a distinctly more complete reconstruction of paleoenvironments and past land uses, important research themes of archaeologists for the specialties concerned.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)603-617
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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