The difference between dirt and other dirt: Using multivariate statistical analysis to classify chemical soil enrichment at Late Stone Age archaeological sites in North Ostrobothnia, Finland
Hulse, Eva Leonie
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This dissertation explores the specific methodology of soil chemistry analysis as applied to the need to understand human behavior in the context of larger social changes taking place between 6000 and 4000 years ago in northern Finland. The present study examines evidence of anthropogenic alterations to soil chemistry as a result of organic decay, by means of inductively-coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry of soil samples. In podzols elements are displaced vertically, but interpretation of chemical patterns is still possible. The best way to analyze the chemical composition of archaeological soils is through multivariate statistical methods like principal components analysis and discriminant function analysis. The resulting patterns can be mapped using a GIS. This study compares the multi-element patterns at two similar prehistoric structures, and uses discriminant function analysis to classify samples from a third archaeological site. The classification shows that the composition of features can be very predictable. The mapped patterns suggest cleaning within the structures and secondary refuse outside of them, and this, combined with excavated artifacts and features, indicates that while people probably did not occupy these structures year-round, they occupied them repeatedly and stayed for perhaps months at a time. Regional settlement-pattern survey benefits from the use of multi-element analysis. The analytical methods described here are both narrowly applicable to podzolized archaeological soils in circumpolar regions, and broadly applicable to the classification and interpretation of soil chemistry at all archaeological sites.