Pedosedimentary records of Holocene paleoenvironments in a dryland alluvial fan system in Sonora, NW-Mexico

Georgina Ibarra Arzave, Elizabeth Solleiro-Rebolledo, Emmanuel Ayala, Héctor Cabadas, Rafael López-Martínez


In this work we present a detailed micromorphological analysis of a sequence of palaeosols and sedimentary units at La Playa archaeological site. This sequence is from the Late Pleistocene (Marine Isotopic Stage 2) to the Late Holocene. Complementing the micromorphological study, a geomorphological analysis is provided, in order to establish the origin of the landscape units. The results show that according to the geomorphology, La Playa constitutes an alluvial fan, formed by a complex, braided channel. The older unit, the San Rafael Palaeosol (SRP) is the most developed and has a set of features associated with the changing paleoenvironmental conditions such as weathering of the primary minerals, clay illuviation (evidencing humid conditions of the Terminal Pleistocene), pedogenic carbonate accumulation in the A horizon (related to dry environments of Altithermal). The SRP is buried by fluvial sediments, which include different facies interpreted as: floodplain, sandbars, and channels. These sedimentation events are associated with the end of the Altithermal period and evidence more active geomorphic processes, probably due to strong storms causing flooding and the migration of the main tributary. Above the sedimentary unit, the Boquillas Palaeosol (BOP), formed during the Late Holocene, is derived from fluvial-alluvial deposits causing a syn-sedimentary soil, with a more incipient development as indicated by micromorphological features.

Views: 253
Downloads PDF: 156



Antevs E. 1948. The Great Basin: With Emphasis on Glacial and Postglacial times. University of Utah Bulletin V38, No 20.

Betancourt JL, Van Devender TR, Martin PS. 1990. Packrat middens: the last 40,000 years of biotic change. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Blair TC, McPherson JG. 1994. Alluvial fan processes and forms. In: Abrahams AD, Parsons AJ, editors. Geomorphology of desert environments. London: Chapman & Hall.

Bullock, Fedoroff PN, Jongerius A, Stoops G, Tursina T, Babel U. 1985. Handbook for Soil Thin Section Description. Wolverhampton, England: Waine Research Publications.

Byrne R, Busby C, Heizer RF. 1979. The Altithermal Revisited: Pollen evidence from the Leonard Rockshelter. Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology 1:280-294.

Carey B. 2006. Gully erosion. In: Facts. Land series sheets of the Department of Natural Resources and Water. The State of Queensland. L81. Available in

Carpenter J. 2009. La Playa, Sonora. Arqueología Mexicana Vol. XVII, 97:50-53.

Carpenter J, Sánchez G, Villalpando E. 2005. The Late Archaic/Early Agricultural Period in Sonora, Mexico. In: Vierra B, editor. New Perspectives on the Late Archaic Across of the Borderlands. Austin: University of Texas Press. p. 3-40.

Carpenter J, Villalpando E, Sánchez G. 2009. La Playa: an early agricultural period landscape. Archaeology Southwest 23(1):14.

Copeland A, Quade J, Watson JT, Mclaurin BT, Villalpando E. 2012. Stratigraphy and geochronology of La Playa archaeological site, Sonora, Mexico. Journal of Archaeological Science 39:2934-2944.

Cruz-y-Cruz T, Sedov S, Sánchez G, Pi-Puig T, Pustovoytov K, Barceinas-Cruz H, Ortega-Guerrero B, Solleiro-Rebolledo E. 2014. Late Pleistocene-Holocene palaeosols in the north of Sonora, Mexico: chronostratigraphy, pedogenesis and implications for environmental history. European Journal of Soil Science 65:455-469.

Gile LH, Grossman RB. 1968. Morphology of the argillic horizon in desert soils of southern New Mexico. Soil Science 106:6-15.

Holliday VT. 1989. Paleopedology in Archeology. In: Bronger A, Catt JA, editors. Paleopedology: Nature and Applications of Paleosoils. Catena Supplements Volume 16. p. 187-206.

Holmgren A, Peñalba C, Rylander A, Betancourt L. 2003. A 16,000 14C yr B.P. packrat midden series from the USA-Mexico Borderlands. Quaternary Research 60:319-329.

IUSS Working Group WRB. 2006. World References Base for Soil Resources 2006. World Soil Resource Reports no. 103. Rome: FAO.

Johnson AE. 1960. The Place of the Trincheras Culture of Northern Sonora in Southwestern Archaeology. Master of Science thesis. Department of Anthropology, University of Arizona, Tucson.

McLaurin BT, Elliott AC, Watson JT, Villalpando E. 2012. Quaternary stratigraphy of the La Playa archaeological site (SON F:10:3), Northern Sonora, Mexico. In: McLaurin BT, Elliot AC, Torres N, editors. Reconstructing human-landscape interactions. Berlin: Springer Briefs in Earth System Science. p. 3-20.

Mead JI, White RS, Baez A, Hollenshead MG, Swift SL, Carpenter MC. 2010. Late Pleistocene (Rancholabrean) Cynomys (Rodentia, Sciuridae: prairie dog) from northwestern Sonora, Mexico. Quaternary International 217:138-142.

Meltzer DJ. 1999. Human responses to Middle Holocene (Altithermal) climates on the North American Great Plains. Quaternary Research 52:404- 416.

Metcalfe S, Bimpson A, Courtice AJ, O´Hara SLO, Taylor DM. 1997. Climate change at the monsoon/Weterly boundary in Northern Mexico. Journal of Paleolimnology 17:155-171.

Metcalfe S, Say A, Black S, McCulloch R, O'Hara S. 2002. Wet conditions during the Last Glaciation in the Chihuahuan Desert, Alta Babicora Basin, Mexico. Quaternary Research 57:91-101.

Nettleton WD, Witty JE, Nelson RE, Hawley JW. 1975. Genesis of argillic horizons in soils of desert areas of the southwestern United States. Soil Sci Soc Am Proc. 39:919-926.

Nordt L. 2003. Late Quaternary fluvial landscape evolution in desert grasslands of northern Chihuahua, Mexico. Geological Society of America Bulletin 115:596-606.

Ortega-Ramírez J, Valiente-Banuet A, Urrutia-Fucugauchi J, Mortera-Gutiérrez C, Alvarado-Valdez G. 1998. Paleoclimatic changes during the Late Pleistocene–Holocene in Laguna Babícora near the Chihuahan Desert, Mexico. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 35:1168-1179.

Pérez G. 1985. Geografía de Sonora. In: Hopkins A, editor. Historia General de Sonora I. Periodo Prehistórico y Prehispánico. Hermosillo, Sonora: Gobierno del Estado de Sonora.

Schott A. 2017. Site formation processes and depositional environment of a fine-grained alluvial floodplain at La Playa Archaeology Site, Sonora, Mexico. Geoarchaeology 32:283-301.

Smith GD, McFaul M. 1997. Paleoenvironmental and geoarchaeologic implications of late Quaternary sediments and paleosols: North-central to southwestern San Juan Basin, New Mexico. Geomorphology 21:107-138.

Targulian VO, Krasilinikov PV. 2007. Soil system and pedogenetic processes: Self–organization, time scales, and environmental significance. Catena 71:373-381.

Vidal-Zepeda R. 2005. Las regiones climáticas de México. Instituto de Geografía, UNAM, México.

Villalpando E, Carpenter J. 2004. Proyecto Arqueológico La Playa, VI Informe, Temporada 2003. Análisis de los materiales arqueológicos. Archivo Técnico del INAH (unpublished).

Villalpando E, Carpenter J, Watson J. 2007. Proyecto Arqueológico La Playa, VIII Informe, Temporadas 2005 y 2006. Archivo Técnico del INAH.

Weide DL, editor. 1985. Soils and Quaternary geology of the southwestern United States. Boulder, Colorado: Geological Society of America Special Paper 203.

With the patronage of
Avda. de Cantabria, s/n - 28660, Boadilla del Monte
Madrid, España