Plow layer as context…

Plogjord som kontext…is the name of a brand new collection of articles by researchers who gathered in Oslo to discuss the scientific potential of soil that has been heavily disturbed by plowing. This is a theme that naturally concerns our project as well. In many countries, the plow layer is not regarded as constituting an ancient monument (sw. Fornlämning) due to the fact that the finds in the layer can no longer be tied to a specific context. This is also the reason why continued plowing of fields with traces of prehistoric settlements is allowed, since the ancient monument is considered to be the destroyed features below plowing depth and not the plow layer itself.

At the same time, the finds from the plowed horizon can, on a more general level, give important scientific information. Christiansen (2016) discusses the plow-related movement of coins from prehistoric hoards and concludes that, even though parts of the hoards can be found over 80 meters from their original position, most of the finds can be found within a few meters, up to 10 meters from where they were originally buried. This is of course also modified according to terrain, mode of cultivation and morphology of objects. For example, large irregular objects are transported more easily by the plow than small, regular pieces.

The effect of repeated plowing on underlying features. From Martens 2016.

The effect of repeated plowing on underlying features. From Martens 2016.

When we decided to manually investigate the plow layer at Kvarnbo through systematic sampling, it was partly based on the idea that we could obtain rough spatial information from finds, which could be related to both the information from the infrared photography showing the contours of the building, and also to the features hopefully to be uncovered at a later stage. Another aspect was the collection of Iron Age finds other than metal, such as pottery, glass, bone, clay daub etc, which would give qualitative information to the site as a whole.

The results look promising so far. Judging from the finds from the initial test pits registered, in the western part of the building, many of the find categories (burned clay, burnt and unburnt bone in particular) seem to be concentrated outside the building itself, while the inside is relatively empty. Maybe this means that there is still a possibility to reconstruct a general picture of the find distribution within and without the house? It is also encouraging to see, that the amount of obviously later finds is not as high as predicted. Certainly the plow layer contains porcelain, modern glass, etc, that cannot be connected to the use of the site during the Iron Age, but there is a chance that a large portion of the finds are to be associated with the building. This is certainly the case with the Iron Age pottery and the glass beads unearthed to date!

Read more about the subject in J. Martens & M. Ravn (eds.). 2016. Pløyejord som kontekst. Oslo.

by Kim Darmark

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