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Soil cultures – the adaptive cycle of agrarian soil use in Central Europe: an interdisciplinary study using soil scientific and archaeological research

Sandra Teuber, Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, Faculty of Geoscience, Research Area Geography, Chair of Soil Science and Geomorphology; Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, SFB 1070 RESOURCECULTURES
Jan J. Ahlrichs, Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, Faculty of Philosophy, Institute of Pre- and Protohistory and Medieval Archaeology; Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, SFB 1070 RESOURCECULTURES
Jessica Henkner, Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, Faculty of Geoscience, Research Area Geography, Chair of Soil Science and Geomorphology; Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, SFB 1070 RESOURCECULTURES
Thomas Knopf, Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, Faculty of Philosophy, Institute of Pre- and Protohistory and Medieval Archaeology; Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, SFB 1070 RESOURCECULTURES
Peter Kühn, Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, Faculty of Geoscience, Research Area Geography, Chair of Soil Science and Geomorphology; Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, SFB 1070 RESOURCECULTURES
Thomas Scholten, Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, Faculty of Geoscience, Research Area Geography, Chair of Soil Science and Geomorphology; Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, SFB 1070 RESOURCECULTURES

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-09729-220413

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Abstract

Today’s global challenges (e.g., food security) are not unprecedented in human history. Starting with the Neolithic transition, the agricultural sector and society underwent several cultural and technological changes and endured natural challenges. These challenges and changes are analyzed by using the adaptive cycle metaphor and the social-ecological system as tools to show the complexity of human–environment interactions and their development. The analysis relies on archaeological, pedological, and botanical research, and demonstrates the importance of interdisciplinary work. Agrarian soil use as a social-ecological system persisted in Central Europe for 7000 years and underwent an adaptive cycle from the Neolithic transition to industrialization. With agriculture’s mechanization, a second adaptive cycle started. The resilience of agrarian soil use for thousands of years shows that agriculture, as a human–environmental interaction, is adaptive to change. Understanding past agricultural challenges and changes using archaeological and soil scientific data puts the present development into a new perspective. A cultural perspective on soils might trigger soil protection and sustainable land use in a technical as well as political domain. Applying social-ecological system and adaptive cycle concepts to this interdisciplinary reconstruction of agrarian soil use illustrates their usefulness for archaeology and soil science.

Key words

archaeobotany; archaeology; adaptive cycle; agriculture; historical overview; social-ecological system; soil science

Copyright © 2017 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087