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Introduction to special issue on Geoarchaeology: human-environment connectivity

Matthieu Ghilardi, Eric Fouache et Richard Chiverrell
p. 227-228

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1For the second time, a session dedicated to Geoarchaeology occurred in Vienna within the framework of the EGU 2009 meeting (European Geosciences Union, General Assembly 2009, Vienna, Austria, 19-24 April 2009). The session is a growing sector in the Geomorphology Division of the EGU, with twenty-seven abstracts received and twelve oral presentations made. The session was under the patronage of the Working Group of Geoarchaeology from the International Association of Geomorphologists (Chairman at that time: Eric Fouache) and was titled: “Geoarchaeology: an approach at the interface between environmental reconstruction and human settlement” (GM11.1, chair person: Matthieu Ghilardi; co-conveners: Eric Fouache and Richard Chiverrell).

2Geoarchaeology must be considered as a multi-disciplinary approach rather than a single discipline. Indeed, the aim is to further understanding of the connectivity between human activity/settlement and the wider environmental context over Holocene and longer timescales. Rapid evolution or changes in the landscape are often correlated with archaeological evidence to assist the interpretation of sediment or landform archives, but discerning the nature of the relationship between human activity and landscape is often more elusive: cause, effect or a mixture of both? The following themes were explored by scientists involved in this volume dedicated to geoarchaeology: human-environment connectivity, the linkages between site/activity and geomorphological process/record; sediment provenance disentangling depositional sequences (geochemistry, sediment analyses, etc.); chronostratigraphy (boreholes/stratigraphic trenches) of archaeological sites and wider environments. Spatial interpretation of geoarchaeological evidence is actually much more used to propose dynamic mapping of archaeological areas. GIS methods including data derived from remote sensing and geophysical results (Electrical Resistivity Tomography) are very well applied to environmental and archaeological questions.

3Particular attention has been paid by the authors to Mediterranean countries (Greece, Italy, and Tunisia) which comprise two thirds of the articles. The first paper deals with karstic processes: David Psomiadis and colleagues present the palaeoenvironmental study of a speleothem (stable isotopes measurements) linked to the human occupation of a cave in Macedonia, northern Greece. Again in Greece, the linkages between human settlement history and the morphological evolution of karstic depressions created by the carbonate dissolution in central-east Crete were studied by Christoph Siart and Matthieu Ghilardi using a novel association of sediment analyses linked to geophysical results. In Italy, an outstanding work was realised on the formation of dune ridges and secondary dunes associated with the progradation of the Tiber Delta and the development of Roman archaeological sites: the impact of human activities on sediment budgets is clearly shown in this paper written by Andrew Bicket and colleagues. In Tunisia, the geoarchaeological research undertaken by Kamel Zerai in the wadi Sbeïtla highlights a very interesting study of stratigraphic profiles where human artifacts and radiocarbon dating help to identify different phases of alluvial deposition during the Holocene. Further east, Richard C. Chiverrell and Zosia H. Archibald present research on the landscape-human interactions associated with a Classical and early Hellenistic period (~600-100 BC) former fluvial harbour located in southern central Bulgaria. Their paper presents a brief overview of the history of occupation and human activity at the site, but focuses on integrating the archaeological and geomorphological evidence to produce a better understanding of the evolution of the surrounding landscape. Finally, an original work done by Carsten Lemmen using the modeling of land cover changes during Pre-Bronze Age aims to evaluate the consequences of human deforestation on carbon release since the Neolithic. This last paper illustrates an important development in the geoarchaeological studies where computer modeling provides a dynamic simulation of the landscape modified by human activities.

4We would like to acknowledge Gilles Arnaud-Fassetta, Editor-in-Chief of the journal for his invaluable help and advice, without his constant support this volume will not have been published. We want to thank the seventeen referees involved in the review process and who contributed significantly to the quality of this volume, we think to Philippe Audra, George A. Brook, Dominik Faust, Nick Marriner, Giuseppe Mastronuzzi, Andrej Mihevc, and all other anonymous reviewers. In addition we would like to thank Niels Hovius (President, Geomorphology Division of the EGU) for his encouragement and support of the Geoarchaeology session.

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Matthieu Ghilardi, Eric Fouache et Richard Chiverrell, « Introduction to special issue on Geoarchaeology: human-environment connectivity », Géomorphologie : relief, processus, environnement, vol. 15 - n° 4 | 2009, 227-228.

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Matthieu Ghilardi, Eric Fouache et Richard Chiverrell, « Introduction to special issue on Geoarchaeology: human-environment connectivity », Géomorphologie : relief, processus, environnement [En ligne], vol. 15 - n° 4 | 2009, mis en ligne le 03 février 2010, consulté le 18 décembre 2017. URL :

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Matthieu Ghilardi

UMR 6635 CEREGE, CNRS, Europôle Méditerranéen de l’Arbois, BP 80, 13545 Aix-en-Provence Cedex 04, France (

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Eric Fouache

Département de Géographie, université de Paris Ouest-Nanterre La Défense (Paris 10), EA 375 GECKO, UMR 8591 CNRS Paris 1/Paris 12, 200 avenue de la République, 92000 Nanterre, France (

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Richard Chiverrell

Department of Geography, Roxby Building, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 7ZT, U-K (

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