Oxford Brookes Archaeology and Heritage

  • OBAH Geoarchaeology
  • Geoarchaeology

    Our Geoarchaeology Division aims to deliver services which will bridge the gap between the archaeological record and the evolving Quaternary landscape, thus creating a direct link between humans and the environment in which they lived.

    We can provide a full range of on-site and off-site solutions to site mitigation which have provision for palaeoenvironmental and geoarchaeological investigations, including recording, sampling and interpretation of Quaternary and archaeological stratigraphic sequences, borehole surveys in advance of archaeological investigation, quantitative laboratory analyses of sediments and soils, palaeohydrological and topographic reconstruction, alluvial (floodplain) archaeology and sedimentology, coastal geomorphology and sea level change, pollen and phytolith analysis.

    Additionally, we have specific expertise in climate modelling (particularly in Arabia), both ancient and recent (Adrian Parker). We also specialise in the examination of sedimentary sequences deposited in caves as rockshelters in order to reconstruct on-site and off-site environmental change (both natural and anthropogenic) (Mike Morley), and alluvial sequences/floodplain archaeology (Adrian Parker and Mike Morley). Our laboratories are fully equipped to deal with a wide range of scientific analyses employed to answer questions concerning the reconstruction of past environments, site formation processes and the functional analyses of archaeological features and sediments. Our team has considerable experience in commercial geoarchaeological fieldwork in the UK, as well as elsewhere in Europe, North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and Asia.

    Our geoarchaeological services includes:

  • Our team is highly experienced in carrying out geoarchaeological fieldwork, including recording and interpreting Quaternary sediment sequences, devising and executing sampling strategies – for both environmental (e.g. pollen, phytoliths) and dating analyses (eg. OSL, 14C) – and carrying out borehole surveys of sub-surface sediments.
    We can formulate and undertake sample collection schemes for a wide range of absolute dating techniques, including radiocarbon (14C), Uranium-Thorium, optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) and electron spin resonance (ESR).
    We cover a suite of parameters in our sediment laboratories, including particle size analysis, organic matter and carbonate content, magnetic susceptibility measurements, mineralogy, bulk density, pH, soil phosphorous and conductivity. Though primarily lab-based, some of these techniques (e.g. magnetic susceptibility) can be carried out in the field.
    Our micromorphology service offers everything from early-stage advice and field sampling, to thin section manufacture, right through to interpretation and report production. This technique is invaluable in ascertaining the nature of archaeological sites and features, as well as providing otherwise indiscernible environmental and climatic information.
    We use data gathered during borehole surveys of sub-surface sediments to model the changing landscape using GIS software. Such models help generate a picture of the evolving topography of a site, and can also be used as a predictive tool in the early stages of archaeological investigation. This allows for an understanding of archaeological material in its appropriate landscape context. Such data is also a useful stand-alone tool to better understand the dynamics of the changing Quaternary landscape.
    Cores collected during borehole surveys can be brought to our laboratories for detailed examination, description and interpretation, as well as for sub-sampling for other lab-based techniques (eg. pollen analysis, radiocarbon dating etc.)
    The study of sub-fossil inclusions such as pollen grains, phytoliths, micro-charcoal and plant macro-fossils reveal much about the depositional and climatic context of a site as well as insights into human impact and land use through time. At OBAH we have the expertise to carry out these analyses to the highest level.