Soils and late-Quaternary landscape evolution in the Cottonwood River basin, east-central Kansas: Implications for archaeological research

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Abstract

Temporal and spatial patterns of landscape evolution strongly influence the temporal and spatial patterns of the archaeological record in drainage systems. In this geoarchaeological investigation we took a basin-wide approach in assessing the soil stratigraphy, lithostratigraphy, and geochronology of alluvial deposits and associated buried soils in the Cottonwood River basin of east-central Kansas. Patterns of landscape evolution emerge when stratigraphic sequences and radiocarbon chronologies are compared by stream size and landform type. In the valleys of high-order streams (≥4th order) the Younger Dryas Chronozone (ca. 11,000-10,000 14C yr B.P.) was characterized by slow aggradation accompanied by pedogenesis, resulting in the development of organic-rich cumulic soils. Between ca. 10,000 and 4900 14C yr B.P., aggradation punctuated by soil formation was the dominant process in those valleys. Alluvial fans formed on the margins of high-order stream valleys during the early and middle Holocene (ca. 9000-5000 14C yr B.P.) and continued to develop slowly until ca. 3000-2000 14C yr B.P. The late-Holocene record of high-order streams is characterized by episodes of entrenchment, rapid aggradation, and slow aggradation punctuated by soil development. By contrast, the early and middle Holocene (ca. 10,000-5000 14C yr B.P.) was a period of net erosion in the valleys of low-order streams. However, during the late Holocene small valleys became zones of net sediment storage. Consideration of the effects of these patterns of landscape evolution on the archaeological record is crucial for accurately interpreting that record and searching for buried archaeological deposits dating to specific cultural periods. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc..

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Beeton, J. M., & Mandel, R. D. (2011). Soils and late-Quaternary landscape evolution in the Cottonwood River basin, east-central Kansas: Implications for archaeological research. Geoarchaeology, 26(5), 693–723. https://doi.org/10.1002/gea.20367

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