The anthropogenic deepening of soil for agriculture is a widely-recognised northern European phenomenon. In Scotland, geoarchaeological investigation has identified such anthropogenically-deepened soils in urban and rural contexts and interpreted them in terms of this more general experience,
but has not explored the processes behind their formation. While it is well known that Scotland's medieval town-dwellers grew their dietary staples, their agricultural practices and impact on peri-urban fields has lacked detailed investigation. This paper reviews the geoarchaeological evidence
and analyses documentary records from 17 Scottish burghs, illustrating a central component of burgess agriculture, the management of urban waste for use as manure. Burgh regulations reveal changing cultural attitudes towards waste in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as fewer townsmen
engaged directly in cultivation, but urban waste nevertheless remained in demand as fertiliser in the hinterland of many Scottish towns into the later nineteenth century.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: June 1, 2011
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