SCNAT and its network are committed to a sustainable science and society. They support policy-making, administration and business with expert knowledge and actively participate in public discourse. They strengthen the exchange across scientific disciplines and promote early career academics.

Image: Sebastian,

International symposium "Reading the soil in archaeology: field practice and interdisciplinary perspectives»


3 rue des Tanneurs, 37000 Tours, France

November 29th to December 1st, 2023, in Tours, France


Registration fees

Students - for the 1, 2 or 3 days: 5€
Researchers/teachers/researchers/professionals - Registration for 1 day (including lunch and coffee breaks): 25€
Researchers/teacher-researchers/professionals - Registration for 2 days (including lunch and coffee breaks): 50€
Researchers/teacher-researchers/professionals - Registration for 3 days (including lunch and coffee breaks): 75€

French national Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap), in partnership with the laboratory Archaeology and Territories of UMR 7324 CITERES (CNRS, university of Tours), and in collaboration with archaeology section of the Office of Heritage and Archaeology of Neuchâtel (Switzerland), invites you to participate in a three-day international symposium entitled Reading the soil in archaeology: field practice and interdisciplinary perspectives. It will take place at the university of Tours, in the heart of the city, on the Tanneurs university site. We intend to publish the proposed contributions. Soil features have been at the heart of archaeological questioning for several years, stimulated in particular by the work carried out in preventive archaeology. Their identification, particularly in the field, remains a source of new data and new approaches. Their interpretation is becoming an indispensable step in the archaeological research and can, for certain periods, play a central role. The theme of the symposium was inspired by the common reflections of a group of archaeologists and specialists in earth sciences, with the aim of highlighting interdisciplinary approaches to the understanding of archaeological deposits and sites. Topics in soil science, stratigraphy, sedimentology, geophysics and other disciplines will be mobilised to discuss the soil in archaeological contexts. It includes the potential of these approaches,for both fieldwork planning and the development of archaeological policies.

Objectives and orientations

The symposium aims to promote the interdisciplinary reading of the soil component in field archaeology, relying in particular on the contribution of earth sciences in general. This should result in a better organisation of the various research topics such as field recording, sampling, analysis, data correlation and interpretation. The construction of reference systems, good practice guides and awareness of the recognition of pedo-sedimentary features during archaeological fieldwork appear to be essential today. This call is open for any approach on archaeological contexts as long as it concerns the dialogue between archaeology and environmental sciences in the frame of human occupations and activities as revealed by natural or man-influenced soil horizons and layers. The symposium is organised thematically and does not impose any chronological or geographical limitations to the papers. What can be gained for analysis and interpretation of archaeological structures and layers when the first field observations take into account the soil characteristics? How can such approaches, that needs the collaboration of different actors, be facilitated and enhanced?

In order to optimise the study and understanding of site formation, there is a need for adapted protocols and decision support tools that range from intra-site to macro-regional scale. All field actors in this range are concerned by the proposed discussions. This symposium will encourage communications on the dialogue between archaeology and earth sciences, on common field experiences and assessments, on first syntheses and reference systems. It also addresses the question of protocols and optimisation of fieldwork, as well as the decision processes concerning the selection of analyses, including, sometimes, within the restrictions of a developer-funded project. The preference will go to multi-author presentations on the proposed themes. Poster sessions will be available for specific case studies. The symposium will be organised in sessions that will be defined according to the proposals of communications. Possible topics include:

1. The implementation of cross-knowledge: complementarity of archaeological and pedo-sedimentary reading and approaches in the field; clarification and definition of the main and indispensable terminologies specific to each of the field actors; the question of practical training, whether as a student or during the professional career;

2. Results of pedo-sedimentary field studies and soil characteristics (1): specific contexts (prehistoric, urban, rural...) and structures (dug, elevated and combustion structures, surfaces such as buildings, courtyards, enclosures...);

3. Results of pedo-sedimentary field studies and soil characteristics (2): particular deposits (colluvium, dark earths, peat...) and soil horizons (occupation, cultivation, reference horizons...);

4. Methods: advantages and limitations of the systematisation of field surveys of common and easily identifiable soil characteristics; creation and access modes of reference documents and choice of classification tools.


Languages: English, French