Stratigraphic modelling and chronology at the site of Soyo, Northern Mongolia

Author: Michael Everett

Everett, Michael, 2024 Stratigraphic modelling and chronology at the site of Soyo, Northern Mongolia, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

Terms of Use: This electronic version is (or will be) made publicly available by Flinders University in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. You may use this material for uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material and/or you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact with the details.


The archaeology of Mongolia is relatively less known than many other parts of the world. In particular, there is limited understanding of chronology prior to the Late Bronze Age. This is despite the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age being the probable time for the emergence of pastoralism which is a major ongoing research question in Mongolian archaeology.

Part of the difficulty is due to the unstratified nature of many Mongolian sites meaning archaeological material is difficult to arrange into a relative chronological system to examine diachronic trends. The site of Soyo, in the Darkhad basin of northern Mongolia, presents a rare opportunity to study a stratified Neolithic site in Mongolia. Previous research at the site has revealed an extensive site formation history from as early as 13,000 years ago and occupation from at least the Neolithic period at 6500-6000 years ago contained within multiple generations of palaeosols. However, the complex and disturbed stratigraphy at this site within a former glacial valley has so far hindered efforts to construct a site-wide stratigraphic model and chronological framework.

This thesis presents new stratigraphic modelling of Soyo using geophysical, sedimentological and radiocarbon results. Electrical resistivity tomography and magnetometry surveys were conducted in 2019 alongside excavations for stratigraphic control. This is combined with previously collected ground-penetrating radar data to construct a model for the stratigraphy at Soyo. Sediment analyses are used to infer depositional environments for each layer and radiocarbon dates (both new and old) provide ages for the layers and the archaeological material they contain.

The results of this thesis challenge previously held assumptions about age of much of the stratigraphy at Soyo. While extensive periods of previously missing stratigraphy have been accounted for here, it was also found that the there are likely to be significant periods not represented because of erosion or non-deposition. Furthermore, much of the complex stratigraphy at Soyo does not extend far laterally because the site experienced periods of deposition and erosion in localised areas rather than site-wide. It is argued here that the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age strata at Soyo are partially missing because of erosion or non-deposition which reduces the ability of the site to inform archaeologists about diachronic changes in that period of Mongolia's history. It is suggested also that changes in lithic technology at Soyo that had previously been tentatively assigned to the Early Bronze Age probably date to the Early Iron Age.

Keywords: stratigraphic modelling, archaeology, geophysics, ERT, GPR, Mongolia

Subject: Archaeology thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2024
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Ian Moffat