Application of high-resolution Mobile Metal Ion (MMI) soil geochemistry to archaeological investigations: An example from a Roman metal working site, Somerset, United Kingdom

Graham C. Sylvester, Alan W. Mann, Andrew W. Rate, Clare A. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

An innovative application of Mobile Metal Ion (MMI) partial extraction soil geochemistry is used to identify below-surface archaeological features, using a previously incompletely surveyed Roman metal-working site at St. Algar's Farm, Somerset, as a case study. Soil samples were taken and analyzed for 53 elements by the MMI geochemical method. Lead, Tl, Ba, and Zn were found in very high concentrations and the sensitivity of the technique also enabled Ag, Au, and Sn to be measured in anomalous concentrations. Elemental maps accurately outlined known metal working areas. Principal component analysis and bivariate correlations identified two suites of associated elements: Pb, Ba, Tl, Ag, Au, Cu, Sb, the base and noble metal group (BNM), and Fe, Ti, Nb, Mn, Co, Cu, P, Li, Rb, Sc, Cs, K, Ga, P, Zr, Th, and Sn, the pegmatite (PEG) group. These were used to form indices that delineate the metal working area and areas possibly related to the processing of pegmatite containing Sn. The high-sensitivity MMI data were compared with strong acid digest results from a limited number of the MMI samples; the MMI data showed better geochemical contrast than the strong acid results. Multielement statistical similarity comparisons with off-site samples suggest likely sources for the Pb and Sn used at the St. Algar's site. The increased sensitivity of MMI soil analysis combined with the multielement capacity allows a more detailed archaeological interpretation. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)563-574
Number of pages12
JournalGeoarchaeology
Volume32
Issue number5
Early online date8 May 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017

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