A non-invasive procedure allows obtaining archaeological information without excavating

An intercontinental archaeological research, led by scientists from the Society and Socio-Ecological Dynamics (Cases) study team at Pompeu Fabra University, has advanced in the comprehension and preservation of archaeological web sites and in increasing their assessment and surveying, thanks to the software of pXRF (portable X-ray fluorescence assessment) to anthropogenic sediments in Africa. It is a rapid, affordable, non-invasive process, which enables producing an added archaeological document from the anthropogenic deposit by analysing chemical components, combined with geostatistics.

It is a swift, affordable, non-invasive technique, which enables making an additional archaeological report from the anthropogenic deposit by analysing chemical elements, merged with geostatistics.

The treatment, which has been correctly tested on the stone walled web site of Seoke in Botswana, southern Africa, courting from the eighteenth century Advert, is the result of exploration led by Stefano Biagetti, a member of the Cases research team, lately revealed in the journal PLOS Just one, co-funded by the Palarq Foundation. It has also associated Instances members Jonas Alcaina-Mateos, Abel Ruiz-Giralt, Carla Lancelotti and Shira Gur-Arie (now at the University of Munich, Germany), along with Patricia Groenewald (University of Cape Town, South Africa), Jordi Ibáñez-Insa (Geosciences Barcelona, GEO3BCN-CSIC), Fred Morton (University of Botswana), and Stefania Merlo (University of Cambridge, British isles).Watch of the stone constructions of Seoke&#13

Stone-walled sites are settlements belonging to the southern African Iron Age, which emerged close to 1200 Advert, whose dimension and form vary considerably. Their title demonstrates the dry stone wall constructions that characterize them, and they ended up occupied by different Bantu-talking farming and herding communities: they farmed, hunted and worshipped livestock as a resource of both equally economic and political prosperity.

“Our technique goes further than the visible archaeological evidence, as it provides info on the use that was built of the house, and confirms or clarifies the probable features of the locations analysed”.

Inspite of the extended tradition of research on the use of area in these settlements, primarily based predominantly on ethnographic evidence and excavating little locations of some web pages, to day it experienced proved tricky to perform this examination making use of classic strategies, past a normal, significant-scale architectural evaluation: these web sites were occupied for short durations of time (one or two generations), they are characterized by the scarce thickness of the archaeological deposits exactly where handful of objects are identified, and they involve a huge range of stone structures of related morphology, which complicates determining the numerous employs manufactured of them.

“Our technique goes further than the seen archaeological proof, as it presents facts on the use that was produced of the place, and confirms or clarifies the probable functions of the locations analysed. The study we have done has also exposed the existence of ‘invisible’ archaeological features that can’t be discovered by naked eye in common field function”, Stefano Biagetti explains. pXRF evaluation delivers swift benefits (no more than four minutes per sample), enables analysing reasonably massive parts in a short time, and the subject laboratory can be quickly set up, staying away from acquiring to transport large quantities of sediment.

A new tactic to have an understanding of the functional and symbolic employs of the location


Human settlements can depart evidence in the sort of chemical factors in web-site sediments, that allow identifying several human pursuits (e.g., regions of the property, for the planning and intake of food items, burials, handicraft creation, storage, livestock, and many others.) . “The chemical markers give an priceless tactic to ascertain past and modern activities of a location, to fully grasp the spatial dynamics of these functions, and interpret architectural constructions in relation to their features and employs”, the authors condition.

The prospective of this new solution lies in the simple fact that traces of chemical factors characterize repetitive use in specified places.

The possible of this new method lies in the simple fact that traces of chemical things symbolize repetitive use in certain spots. “The concentration shifts from the absolute values of the chemical components to their presence, mix, and primarily any anomalies produced by their deviation from the average for the samples”, they state.

Having analysed the Seoke site working with the pXRF product and a geostatistical procedure known as ‘Kriging’, the scientists detected, for example, phosphorus, indicating the presence of livestock concentrations of organic elements, referring to the presence of middens metals these types of as chromium, iron and zirconium, which in shape the hypothesis of an spot used as a workshop or for storage, where by steel equipment may well have been used to condition pottery, clearing, wooden-reducing, and so on. and silicon, indicating a probable area for processing and storing grain.

An innovative technique that factors to its use in potential study


The authors pressure that this pioneering treatment in the use of non-invasive methods may possibly allow unparalleled prospects in comprehending African archaeological web pages, without the need of disturbing the cultural heritage via new excavations. “The most promising achievement of our analyze is that pXRF performs effectively in the deposits of stone walled websites. The benefits presented right here can be employed critically to style surveys and digs at other web pages of identical traits, and far more frequently at any other open up-air website”, they assure.


This research is section of the task “GeoEtnoarqueologia y uso del espacio (GEA)”, directed by Stefano Biagetti and co-funded by the Palarq Foundation (2019 and 2020 phone calls), the University of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies of the University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa), and the University of Botswana.

Reference work: Biagetti, S., Alcaina-Mateos, J., Ruiz-Giralt, A., Lancelotti, C., Groenwald, P., Ibánez Insa, J., Gur-Arie, S., Morton, F., Merlo, S. (May well 2021) “Identifying anthropogenic functions at Seoke (Botswana) using pXRF: Increasing the history of southern African Stone Walled Internet sites”. PLOS 1