As soils contain organic material, buried soils can be classified as fossils. Fossil soils are known as palaeosols. The dark charcoal-rich soil layer immediately beneath these tussocks in the central North Island is the result of fires lit by humans. Below it two fossil soil layers (light brown) have been covered with deposits (tan-coloured) erupted from volcanoes. Researchers can use pollen found in soil layers to understand past environmental conditions. Fossil soils containing burnt charcoal and moa bones have been used to date Polynesian settlement of New Zealand at 1250–1300 CE.
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Photograph by H. S. Gibbs
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