Original paper

A Micromorphological Assessment of Anthropogenic Features in Pre-Columbian French Guiana Dark Soils (FGDS): First Results

Brancier, Jeanne; Cammas, Cécilia; Todisco, Dominique; Fouache, Eric


In order to document site formation processes at the microscale and to characterise pre-Columbian French Guiana dark soils (FGDS), micromorphology was performed at three sites. For the first time it was possible (i) to microscopically characterise pre-Columbian Anthrosols in different physical contexts and (ii), to identify anthropogenic features associated with past human occupation. Microfeatures of the Holocene alluvial terrace of the lower Maroni River witnessed (i) several episodes of clay enrichment and/or redistribution, (ii) seasonal waterlogging, and (iii), post-depositional biological activity. Clay enrichment and organic matter inputs together with biological activity processes might have alternated, probably in relation to vegetal cover and/or anthropogenic activities. On top of the alluvial terrace, bioturbated dark layers are enriched in fine brown organic matter and charcoals. Cumulic soil development was favoured when successive sediment inputs due to episodic flooding and/or overland flow was possible (Chemin Saint Louis site). On a lateritic hill, under rainforest, at the MC87 ring-ditched mountain (Montagnes Couronnées or Crowned Mountain), microscale identification of yellowish unburnt oxic B horizon aggregates together with anthropogenic features related to fire such as charcoals and burnt soil fragments (rubefied and dark brown aggregates) stress that lateritic soil acted as a support for activities in the enclosure, and as reworked material in the ditch. These components could result from clearance for settlement, agricultural management and cultivation, or domestic activities. The obtained results allow first comparisons to be drawn between pre-Columbian FGDS and Brazilian dark earths (BDE). With the exception of a similarity in colour, the former is revealed to be less rich in anthropogenic components with an absence of phosphatic elements such as bones.


anthrosolsdark soilsformation processesfrench guianamicromorphologypre-columbian