A possible relationship between the form and function of medieval or later field systems in Scotland is tested using soil micromorphology and quantitative analysis techniques. Existing survey data is used to develop a classification system of six medieval or later field systems in Scotland.
The topsoils of two abandoned field systems are sampled from field units representing the range of field classes identified during the field system classification of each site. Soil micromorphology is used to identify existing micromorphological evidence of past anthropogenic influences in these soils. Two methods of soil thin section description are employed using a specially devised coding method to increase the speed of soil thin section description; Level 1 description records a single entry per slide for 32 micromorphological parameters, Level 2 uses a 1cm2 grid system over each slide to record an entry for alternate gridsquares for 15 micromorphological parameters. The soil micromorphological results are quantitatively analysed using HCA and non-parametric statistical tests to test for a possible relationship between the form and function of the field units within each field system.
The results indicate that automated image analysis and quantitative analysis techniques can be successfully applied to existing data to produce classification maps for medieval or later field systems which reflect the morphology of the different units but current methods of recording field systems needs to be more detailed and comprehensive before a functional classification can be produced. The Level 1 method of soil micromorphological description provides an efficient and accurate method of describing a large number of slides. No relationship between the form and function of the field units within each system was found using the available survey data and soil micromorphological evidence. The identified micromorphological evidence for past anthropogenic activity is associated with manuring practises rather than cultivation techniques.