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A record of soil loss from Butrint, southern Albania, using mineral magnetism indicators and charcoal (AD 450 to 1200).

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date04/2004
Number of pages13
Original languageEnglish


Mineral magnetic and charcoal analyses were carried out on two sections 0.6 km apart on the Vrina Plain at Shën Dëlli, a suburb of Roman Butrint (ancient Buthrotum), southern Albania. Using a chronology developed by archaeomagnetic dating, the two sections postdate Roman archaeological structures on the site, providing a sediment record between c. ad 450 and 1200. Environmental magnetic data were analysed using cluster analysis to interpret a consistent stratigraphic development between the two sections. Above the archaeo logical remains on the western side of the Shën Dëli settlement, marsh clay sedimentation started ad 450–500, contemporaneous with evidence of site occupation. Anthropogenic activity is evident from the high macro-charcoal content, which declines at ad 750–800, and may mark the end of settlement in the vicinity. Both sections show similar sedimentation rates which, when extrapolated, suggest that marsh growth to the present day levels would have been completed between about ad 1500 and 1600. From about ad 750 to 850 sedimentation continued consistently across the site, with low microcharcoal input, but an increasingly important pres ence of magnetic minerals, including superparamagnetic magnetite, associated with top soil input. Between ad 1050 and 1200 the input from magnetically enhanced topsoil had increased tenfold over 300 years earlier, indicating that soil erosion was a major sediment source. This marked increase in soil loss could be due either to different land-management practices or to local deforestation. Whether this change in topsoil loss is linked to climatic changes associated with the beginning of the ‘Mediaeval Warm Period’ (c. ad 1000–1400) needs further investigation.