Luminescence dating approaches to reconstruct the formation of plaggic anthrosols

J. Choi, R. van Beek, E.L. Chamberlain, T. Reimann, Harm Smeenge, A.M.H. van Oorschot, J. Wallinga

Research output: Working paperPreprint


Plaggic anthrosols are one of the major features that contributed to the formation of the present-day landscape of northern part of Europe since the Middle Ages, but their formation history is rather poorly understood. The formation of plaggic anthrosols had an impact beyond the arable fields, impacting the entire landscape surrounding the arable fields, mainly through plaggen management activities. Therefore, plaggic anthrosols are a valuable archive for studying the interactions between human, soil, and landscape. Recently, luminescence dating methods have recently emerged as a tool for tracing the past movement of grains, including within the soil column. This study combines two primary luminescence methods – single-grain feldspar infrared (IRSL) and post-infrared infrared (pIRIR) measurements, and small-aliquot quartz optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) – to reconstruct the formation of a plaggic anthrosol at Braakmankamp (eastern Netherlands). We test: 1) how to identify well-bleached grains for single-grain feldspar pIRIR dating; 2) whether the single-grain feldspar pIRIR and the small-aliquot quartz OSL ages are consistent; 3) what additional information on the formation of plaggic anthrosols is provided by examining both single-grain feldspar pIRIR and small-aliquot quartz OSL equivalent-dose distributions. Toward this aim, we present a new method to identify well-bleached single grains of feldspar using the ratio of the grains’ IRSL and pIRIR signals. Feldspar pIRIR ages obtained from bootstrapped Minimum Age Model (BsMAM) analyses of grains identified as well-bleached were in agreement with the BsMAM ages of small-aliquot quartz OSL for samples from the plaggen layer. In contrast, ages obtained from the two methods do not agree for samples where grains of different burial age are mixed through natural bioturbation. Our results demonstrate that single-grain feldspar pIRIR measurements provide a useful tool to identify the past light exposure and soil-mixing of sand grains in sediments of different depositional and burial histories. Augmenting this information with conventional quartz OSL dating allow us to reconstruct the timing and processes of plaggic anthrosol formation in Braakmankamp. According to luminescence dating results, land clearance around 900–1000 CE and accumulation of plaggen material began around 1200–1300 CE with the average accumulation rate of ~ 1.14 mm/yr.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2023


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