The study site (149.2 m a.s.l.) is located within Moscow Kremlin, the historical center of Moscow City. Topographically, the site is situated on the 3rd fluvioglacial terrace of the Moskva River.
Moscow City is characterized by a temperate continental climate with a mean annual temperature of +4.5°С, mean temperatures of January and July of –6.7 and +19.2°С, respectively, a mean annual precipitation of about 650 mm, with more than 300 mm falling during the growing season and mean annual precipitation/evaporation ratio is about 1. Natural vegetation is presented by coniferous and broad-leaved forests, with Retisols in loamy sediments and Podzols in sandy parent material.
The present study on buried soils and cultural layers was conducted during the archaeological excavations within the eastern part the Moscow Kremlin area, based on several pits within the excavation location of ‘Block 14’. In each of the pits profiles with cultural layers and paleosol horizons were described in the field and sampled along vertical columns for laboratory analyses.
In each of the pits cultural layers and paleosol horizons were described in the field and sampled along vertical columns for laboratory analyses. In this paper we present and discuss the results obtained from three pits (with their archaeological coordinates specified in brackets): Pit 1 (Excavation 2, Phase 1, Square 1), Pit 2 (Excavation 2, Phase 2, Square 24) and Pit 3 (Excavation 3, Phase 2, Square 11) (Fig. 2).
The three studied pits are characterized by similar profiles (Figure 3) with a series of cultural layers of different thicknesses, colours and compositions underlain by buried soil. The buried soil has a shallow anthric horizon due to arable or garden cropping. The boundary between the brickwork of the ancient cathedral’s foundation and the underlying CL was set as the zero level in descriptions of all the pits. In the description we indicated the cases when buried soil horizons are developed within cultural layers.
Pit 1 (Excavation 2, Phase 1, Square 1)
Cultural layers (0–17 cm). A sequence of cultural layers of different colours, with inclusions of small fragments of medieval ceramic and charcoal particles. Sandy loam. Carbonate gravel is abundant in the upper 5 cm.
2Cte (17–18 cm), technic material with abundant fragments of limestone of different sizes. Abrupt transition and smooth boundary.
Ahb1 (18–19 cm). Pyrogenic horizon. Dark grey. Consist almost entirely of large charcoal particles, ).
3C (19–25 cm) Brownish grey, loamy sand with gravel, free of archaeological finds.
Cultural layers (25–47 cm). A sequence of cultural layers of different colours, with inclusions of small fragments of medieval ceramic and charcoal particles. Sandy loam.
Ahb2 + cultural layer (47–48 cm). 10YR 4/2, dark brown, silt loam, weak crumby structure, the thickness varies between 0.5–2 cm, the upper and lower boundaries are slightly wavy and abrupt.
Ahb3 + cultural layer (48–53 cm). 10YR 4/3, grey with brownish hues, silt loam, weak crumby structure, with a slightly wavy lower boundary marked by a thin diffuse brown stripe.
4C 53–57 cm. Light-brown, loose, sandy loam with gravel, with smooth boundary.
5Apb (57–60 cm). The lower part of truncated plough layer. 10YR 4/2, dark brown. Silt loam, weak crumby structure. Abrupt irregular lower boundary.
5Eb (60–65 cm). A lower part of Albic horizon not touched by ploughing. 10YR 6/2, light brownish grey, silt loam. Weak platy structure, gradual smooth boundary.
5Bsb (65–70 cm). 10 YR 5/4 yellowish brown, silt loam, firm, gradual smooth boundary.
6BCb (70–85 cm). 6 YR 6/3, pale brown, silt loam,with dark loamy stripes (7,5 YR 4/3, brown), friable.
Archaeological finds: A single small fragment of ceramic dated back to the Early Iron Age
(2000–1500 BP) was found within the 60–65 cm layer. The above deposits were medieval (the 12th–13th
Pit 2 (Excavation 2, Phase 2, Square 24)
Cultural layers (0–32 cm). A sequence of three cultural layers of different colours: the upper and the lower ones are mostly dark with thin brown intercalations and inclusions of fine gravel. The middle layer is light brownish grey, with small charcoal particles and fine gravel. The two upper layers have smooth and abrupt boundaries. The lower cultural layer is characterized by common charcoal particles and a wavy lower boundary
Apb (32–38 cm). A buried plough layer. Light grey, sandy loam with gravel, firm, with abrupt smooth boundary.
Bsb (38–48 cm). 10 YR 5/4 yellowish brown, silt loam, firm, gradual smooth boundary.
BCb (48–60 cm). 6 YR 6/3, pale brown, silt loam, with dark loamy stripes (7,5 YR 4/3, brown), friable.
Archaeological finds: All artefacts found in this pit are medieval.
Pit 3 (Excavation 3, Phase 2, Square 11)
Cultural layers (0–32 cm). A sequence of cultural layers of different colours and densities, with a clear, slightly wavy lower boundaries.
Apb 32–34 cm. The lower part of truncated plough layer. 10YR 4/2, dark brown. Silt loam, weak crumby structure. Abrupt irregular lower boundary.
Eb (34–36 cm). A lower part of Albic horizon not touched by ploughing. 10YR 6/2, light brownish grey, silt loam. Weak platy structure, friable. With fine iron nodules. Gradual smooth boundary.
Apb2 (36–50 cm). An ancient plough layer, light grey silt loam, firm, abrupt smooth lower boundary.
Bb (50–70 cm). 6 YR 6/3, pale brown, silt loam, firm, with gravel.
Archaeological finds: Small fragments of ceramic of the Early Iron Age in the lower part of the 36–50 cm layer.
The history of human occupation of the Moscow Kremlin could be subdivided into two periods of different types of land use—agricultural and urban. From the Early Iron Age (1500–2000 BP) to the 12th century, alternating stages of agricultural land use and abandonment resulted in human-induced transformation of natural ecosystems (broad-leaved forests with occasional conifers with Podzols) into agricultural landscapes. During the first stage of agricultural land use (the Early Iron Age) inhabitants felled the forest and ploughed the soil. Then, this area was generally abandoned, probably, because of a loss of fertility of ploughed soils as a result of erosion. The second stage of agricultural land use started few centuries later, when the forest was felled again and the soils were re-ploughed.
During the first and second stages of agricultural land use, soil ploughing provoked intensive soil erosion that lead to truncation of the upper soil horizons. During both stages of agricultural land use the arable soils were fertilized. The Early Iron Age plough land was fertilized by ash and limed by crushed dolomite. The 12th century plough land was ameliorated not only with ash and dolomite but also with crushed bones, manure and household waste.
A change from the agricultural to urban land use resulted in the accumulation of cultural layers. A few interruptions in their accumulation, which were caused by accidental fires or other phenomena, were accompanied by regeneration of natural vegetation cover and the formation of shallow soils. Overall, findings from this study have clearly demonstrated how the application of soil science methods can make an important contribution to the interdisciplinary research on the archaeological excavation site of the Moscow Kremlin. For example, results obtained included the following: (1) micromorphological data from thin section analysis allowed for the confident identification of an ancient plough line and lithological discontinuity, which helped to interpret the stages of human-induced palaeopedogenesis at the site; (2) the analysis of thin sections also provided evidence for the Early Iron Age agricultural practices of soil liming and fertilizing and (3) the comparative analysis of data from palynological and phytholith analyses helped determine the duration of the site abandonment and the character of post-pyrogenic natural regeneration of vegetation.
Alexandra Golyeva, Olga Khokhlova, Asia Engovatova, Vladimir Koval, Anna Aleshinskaya, Maria Kochanova, Aleksander Makeev, Tatiana Puzanova, Fatima Kurbanova. The Application of Buried Soil Properties for Reconstruction of Various Stages of Early Habitation at Archaeological Sites in Moscow Kremlin, GEOSCIENCES, vol. 447, № 8(12), pp. 1-19 DOI