Day 4…Microscope Eyes

Today was much like the past few days. My approach to learning Soil Micromorphology has been working so I stuck with it. I did make one minor modification though. Rather than pair slides with their relevant publication and go over the identified characteristics, I pulled out one of the best guides to Archaeological Soil Micromorphology, Soil and Micromorphology in Archaeology by Courty et al. 1989, and went through the major concepts while trying to locate evidence for each one in a number of slides. It was a bit frustrating but overall it went well. Not really the best approach unless you have slides that have already been analyzed and are supposed to have these features but it worked for me today and I recommend it.

The best part of this course is the enormous reference collection of thin sections that is at our disposal. After each topic is introduced, remember the two lectures a day program followed by hours of examining slides, we are introduced to another set of thin sections relevant to the topic. That means every half of day the slides we can look at grows and grows. Now that I am feeling a bit more confident in my approach to soil micromorphology I have realized just how valuable this experience truly is. The only unfortunate part is I wish I had more time to look through all of these things and really thoroughly study each topic in detail. A week doesn’t really lend itself to that however.

Today we were introduced to two more topics. We shifted into more rural habitation and looked at occupation surfaces, such things as constructed living floors like plaster, mortar, daub. This was the morning. In the afternoon we were treated to a lecture on the vague term Dark Earth. This type of sediment dates to the post-Roman period and is related to urban deposits that have been the medium in which soil has formed. As per the name it is very dark and visually diagnostic, often producing an extremely homogenized deposit. I won’t go into to too much detail but take a look at Dr Richard Macphail’s work if you’re interested in learning more. It is an extremely ubiquitous sediment type in London in particular and is an amazing example of how soil micromorphology can be applied to archaeological questions.

In addition to all this my eyes have begun to revolt to excessive use of a microscope. It may have something to do with a lack of sleep but I don’t have that luxury for another day so I am going to pretend it doesn’t exist.

Back tomorrow with Day 5 update, the final day of the training week.

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