Article summary of archaeology research.
Climate and Landscape Change; an Analysis of Multi-Proxy Analysis
A peat bog in Poland (Zabieniec) had four different proxies measured by Lamentowicz et al. (2009), to determine; the origin of the bog, and the landscape changes that have occurred over time; anthropogenic use of the land, and their impact on landscape changes; and climatic changes relating to landscape. The proxies used in this research were plant macro-fossils, chironomids, pollen fossils, and testate amoebae (single-celled protists that have a shell). The researchers focus on the last 2,000 years with the intention of finding evidence of human disturbances.
Strengths & Weaknesses
Empirical strengths come from the bog site itself, as lowland bogs (sampled with peat cores) can be very good time capsules. These sites have long records of land use changes, in this case the changes in forest cover in Europe since the early medieval times. Over 100 samples were taken to analyse phosphorous, suggesting that the data collected should be representative and accurate. The samples were dated using spectrometers, calibrated radio-carbon and radio-metric dating, suggesting that the dates collected are likely to be accurate. The climatic changes in this study correspond well to other archaeological studies conducted on the little ice age.
Bogs and other wetland features need to be compared to historical records and other archaeological information to be complete, which in this study area is rare. This research is first to compare multi-proxy data to archaeological records at this location which should strengthen the Palaeo-environmental reconstructions theorized from this study site.
One of the most apparent weaknesses with this type of research is the difficulty in determining the proportions different factors have on the measured proxies. For example in Lamentowicz et al. (2009) study palaeo-environmental proxies are changed both by humans and by the climate but the relative proportional impact by each is variable.
The climatic record in this study site is imperfect, as there were several periods when these areas were drained (anthropogenically) effectively obliterating the climatic records for sections in time. It was further explained by the authors that samples must therefore be taken from several sites in the study area and analyzed across disciplines in order to create a comprehensive analysis.
Only one peat core and one geology core were taken suggesting that the data based on these samples alone may not be reliable. Not all the dates collected have a high probability of accuracy (see table 1 in Lamentowicz et al. 2009). Many samples were taken for the analysis of each of the proxies; however these samples were taken in close proximity to one another. This may weaken the results of the research as the samples are only representative of a small area, which may have anomalies that are not representative of the entire site.
Although there are inherent weaknesses in the collection and analysis of the proxies used in this research when they are collected in mass and combined with past data they become stronger. Proxies are often indirect indicators of climate and anthropogenic alterations, and can be merged with previously identified palaeo-environmental indicators creating comprehensive recreations of past landscapes.