Effects of pocket gopher burrowing on archaeological deposits: A simulation approach

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Abstract

The construction of burrows and movement of sediment by pocket gophers alter archaeological deposits by causing vertical size-sorting of artifacts, destruction of fragile artifacts, disruption of sedimentary structures, and organic enrichment of the subsurface. To evaluate the long-term effects of exposure to burrowing, a simulation was developed based on quantitative information on pocket gopher burrows and rates of sediment movement. Simulation results indicate the development of a distinct stone zone composed predominantly of particles greater than 6 cm after 4000–5000 years, and a logarithmic pattern to the rate of strata disruption. The patterns produced by the simulation compare well with patterns exhibited by actual archaeological deposits belonging to California's Milling Stone Horizon. These results suggest that current notions concerning the Milling Stone Horizon and other aspects of California prehistory may require revision, and that more emphasis must be placed on formation process research in such settings.

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