Hi, my name is Adem, I’m a student of Environmental Heritage management studying at the University of Stirling (Scotland). Once hearing about the opportunity to develop my skills in geoarchaeology, while learning about the landscape history of the Netherlands I knew I had to go!

Day 1, getting to know you… an introduction to geoarchaeology, and the landscape of the Netherlands
When arriving for the first time at VU University I was amazed by the size and aesthetics of the campus, by far the most modern looking university I’ve ever seen! Excited to start the course, I found my way to first class where I was introduced to my fellow classmates and teaching staff; Prof Ian Simpson, and Dr Sjoerd Kluiving.
Teaching began firstly with developing an understanding of the geology of the Netherlands, and the processes stemming from 2.4 million years ago which formed the landscape. The landscape has changed many times, influenced by changing climate, sea level rise and glaciation processes. Also, the landscape was influenced by changing river and marine dynamics as seen in figure 1. This first step of contextualising the landscape before examining soils is important, as it influence the parent material and deposition of sediments on which the soils are formed. We then understood the soil forming factors in greater depth: Climate, Organic matter, Parent material, Time, and Relief (CleOPaTRa). In addition to this we discussed the impact of humans on soils, and how plaggen soils are formed based on cultural farming. Then we took part in a mapping exercise, which illustrated how high topography formed by glacial push moraines influence the soil types as well as anthropogenic land uses. We found that areas which were low lying and wet were likely to be peaty mollisols associated with agriculture, and soils at higher altitude on free draining sands were more likely to be podzols.

Figure 1: An illustrated map showing the dynamic river and marine influences on the Netherlands.

Armed with this new knowledge, we put theory into practice and took part in an exercise describing and interpreting soils preserved on lacquer peels! In groups, we described soil colour (using a Munsell colour chart), texture and structure and then interpreted the soils based on these observations. This was a great learning experience, as we were able to work with a variety of soil types in one place under the guidance of expert knowledge. Here in Figure 2 Sjoerd can be seen describing how time influences the formation of a pozol soil with comparison between the far right and centre lacquer peels.

Figure 2: Sjoerd describing the lacquer peels, explaining how and why they differ.

Day 2 Fieldwork Field-fun!
Our field research began at Wekeromse Zand. This location part of the highlands of the Netherlands, an area with sandy soils where erosion and sand dune formation take place. Our objective was to core the soil using auger coring and then describe the soil and interpret how it may have formed. We started by sampling a flat farmed landscape. Here we found a plaggen type A horizon, followed by what appeared to be an eluviated B horizon and then yellow sand thereafter. Using our observations, we interpreted that the soil had once been a podzol leading to an eluviated B horizon. This soil had then been mixed and added too using plaggen agriculture creating a new anthropogenic A horizon. This underlying B horizon is an example of a Relict soil.

Figure 3: Site 1, flat farming landscape.