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Are burnt sediments reliable recorders of geomagnetic field strength?

  • Manuel Calvo-Rathert (a1), Ángel Carrancho (a1), Florian Stark (a2), Juan José Villalaín (a1) and Mimi Hill (a2)...

This study tests if burnt soils and sediments can provide reliable records of geomagnetic field strength at the time of burning by carrying out an experiment to reproduce the prehistoric use of fire on a clayish soil substratum. Rock magnetic experiments showed that in the upper 0–1 cm of the central part of the burnt surface, remanence is a thermoremanent magnetization carried by single-domain magnetite and that samples are thermally stable. Fourteen specimens from that area were subjected to paleointensity experiments with the Coe method (1967). An intensity of 42.9±5.7 μT was estimated below 440°C, whereas at higher temperatures magneto-mineralogical alterations were observed. Corresponding successful microwave intensity determinations from two specimens gave a mean value of 47.6 μT. Both results are in reasonable agreement with the expected field value of 45.2 μT. Burnt soils of archeological fires thus have the potential to record accurately the paleofield strength and may be useful targets for archeointensity investigations. Coincident results obtained from two different paleointensity determination methods support this conclusion.

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*Corresponding author. Fax: + 34 947 259349. E-mail address: (M. Calvo-Rathert).
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Quaternary Research
  • ISSN: 0033-5894
  • EISSN: 1096-0287
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