Institute of Archaeology


Archaeological Soil Micromorphology

The 2024 Archaeological Soil Micromorphology short course will take place between 10-17 February.

Archaeological Micromorphology course 2022

Update: 2024 course

This year's course is now fully booked. Please contact Manuel Arroyo-Kalin (m.arroyo-kalin@ucl.ac.uk) for details of future courses.


The course, run by Richard Macphail and Manuel Arroyo-Kalin, will include both an “A,B,C Introduction to micromorphological description and analysis” component (suitable for beginners), and topical coverage of several archaeological themes combined with opportunities to study collections (suitable for experienced practitioners).

Richard Macphail has 35 years+ post-doctoral experience in archaeological soil micromorphology, and is at the forefront of current research, for example, in caves, urban archaeology, experiments, buried soils and floors (Macphail et al., 2003a; Macphail and Cruise, 2001; Macphail1et al., 2004; Macphail et al., 2003b1; Macphail and Goldberg, 2003). The most recently published results are found in Goldberg and Macphail (2006 - now available from Blackwells). More detailed publication of the latest soil micromorphology findings and an atlas of archaeological materials are currently underway (Macphail and Goldberg, 2013).
(1 available as pdf files, see references)

Manuel Arroyo-Kalin teaches Geoarchaeology at the UCL Institute of Archaeology and has published extensively on the micromorphology of Amazonian Dark Earths. He has also contributed micromorphological expertise to research projects involving cave sediments, burnt houses, and palaeosols.

Archaeological Soil Micromorphology Intensive Training course 2022

Further information

Themes/subjects covered in previous Archaeological Soil Micromorphology training courses include: 

Archaeological soil micromorphology (microscopic image)
  1. Soil micromorphology and reporting (including use of soil microfabric types (SMTs), counting and production of microfacies types (MFTs).
  2. Basic soil types; differences between soils, sediments and archaeological deposits; effects of burial and site inundation.
  3. Hunter-gatherer sediments and caves
  4. Clearance and low impact (e.g., herding) activities
  5. Cultivation (low intensity)
  6. Introduction to 'Settlement Morphology' Model
  7. Settlement - structures and occupation surfaces; trackways, ditches
  8. Settlement - animal management and manuring
  9. 'Classical' deposits and Dark Earth
  10. Medieval structures, use of space and industrial traces

Follow-on practice days/workshops have included:  

  • Reference thin section study. Short (10 mins) research presentations


Course registration (£450) is now closed.

2022 course participants

48 hours of intensive soil/sediment microscopy took place between 19-27 April. Attendees included 15 postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers from US, Canada, Argentina, Israel, UK, and European universities.