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Geophysical Monograph Series



  • irragric anthrosols
  • human impact
  • irrigation agriculture
  • geomorphology
  • soil science
  • geoarchaeology

Index Terms

  • 1803 Hydrology: Anthropogenic effects
  • 1842 Hydrology: Irrigation
  • 1865 Hydrology: Soils
  • 5419 Planetary Sciences: Solid Surface Planets: Hydrology and fluvial processes



Irragric Anthrosols—Artifacts of Human Adaptation to Arid Conditions: Examples From the High Himalaya and the Coastal Desert of Peru

J. Baade

Department of Geography, Friedrich-Schiller-University, Jena, Germany

Irrigation agriculture represents an ancient adaptation to the environmental conditions in dry lands. Utilizing additional ground or surface water sources enabled societies to establish arable farming systems in otherwise water-scarce environments and gain a measure of resilience against climate fluctuations already thousands of years ago. When surface water is utilized for irrigation, the diversion of water and suspended sediment to the fields results in the buildup of irragric anthrosols representing genuine artifacts of irrigation agriculture. Often these deposits contain other artifacts like charcoal and pottery fragments that can be used for age determination. Surprisingly, it is difficult to find publications using the term irragric anthrosols in a geoarchaeological context. This is most probably due to the novelty of the term in the global soil description system since it was only introduced in the late twentieth century. This paper presents examples of irragric anthrosols from two rather contrasting landscapes, the High Himalaya and the coastal desert of Peru, to advance the recognition of the term and concept. In addition, some of the far-reaching implications for the interpretation of landscape development and human impact are discussed. It is suggested that a reanalysis of soil profiles from other areas where stream discharge has been used for irrigation will probably reveal that this soil type is much more abundant than presently perceived.

Citation: Baade, J. (2012), Irragric anthrosols—Artifacts of human adaptation to arid conditions: Examples from the High Himalaya and the coastal desert of Peru, in Climates, Landscapes, and Civilizations, Geophys. Monogr. Ser., vol. 198, edited by L. Giosan et al., 203–207, AGU, Washington, D. C., doi:10.1029/2012GM001206.


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