Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

pp 7532-7540

Urban Dark Earth

  • Cristiano NicosiaAffiliated withCentre de Recherches en Archéologie et Patrimoine, Université Libre de Bruxelles Email author 
  • , Yannick DevosAffiliated withCentre de Recherches en Archéologie et Patrimoine, Université Libre de Bruxelles

Introduction

Dark Earth is a term used in European urban archaeology to designate thick, dark-colored, homogeneous deposits generally ascribed to the post-Roman period. Often, Dark Earth constitutes an important part of urban stratigraphy. Taking into account that these deposits lack any recognizable internal stratigraphy and that they often formed over several centuries, their study requires an adapted research protocol and case-by-case investigation. The systematic study of Dark Earths from an environmental perspective enhances our knowledge of the array of human and natural events that shaped European cities.

Definition

The term “Dark Earth” does not correspond to a soil classification name (e.g., in soil taxonomy, FAO/WRB, etc.) nor should it imply a univocal archaeological interpretation. The term is used in substitution for other terms present in older literature such as “dark layers,” “black layers,” “black earth,” “made earth,” or “dark made earth” (see Macph ...

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