A prominent subsurface zone (layer) of large stones with diameters greater than 6-7 cm occurs in gravelly soil on colluvial aprons in the Lompoc area of California. The soil is mounded and churned by botta pocket gophers (Thomomys bottae). Sedimentological analyses show that the soil within and above the stone zone—and within the gopher mounds—is relatively homogeneous in fine fraction and forms a biomantle. None of the mounds contained stones with long-axis diameters greater than the maximum diameter of gopher burrows, about 6-7 cm. Larger stones gradually subside and form a stone zone. Both field observations and laboratory tests confirm that gopher bioturbation produces stone zones in coarse gravelly soil. This finding, and similar findings in two other recent studies, have important implications for interpreting archaeological site formation, and for interpreting geologic-pedologic processes inasmuch as artifact layers (and nonartifact layers) in some sites entirely may be due to nonanthropic, nongeologic, postdepositional biological agents.
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