On churchyards - some of the expansion must be due to the fact that the soil is disturbed so more air per volume than undisturbed subsoil. The rest could be bone and composted humanity (plus coffins). Some churchyards must have had thousands of burials over the centuries so even if each one added (say) half a cubic foot of material it would build up over the years.
Urban sites built up partly from digging rubbish pits and filling them with rubbish, and not taking the spoil out of the city, coupled with building materials being brought in and old buildings levelled rather than the site being stripped down to 'natural' as generally today.
Rural sites - worm and mole action, blown dust/sand/leaf mould/manure/alluvium will bury sites. At the same time erosion will expose some (and some crops today will remove significant amounts of soil over time - paticularly potatoes is harvested in wet conditions.
From: British archaeology discussion list [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Michael Haseler
Sent: 25 October 2007 12:22
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [BRITARCH] How does archaeology get buried?
It's an obvious question and the answer appears obvious but it isn't.
Based on the simple principle of conservation of matter, the soil
surrounding any archaeology must come from somewhere.
So, for every site that is increasing in depth there must be a site which is
Now obviously soil tends to flow downhill, so I can understand why valleys
get deeper, and human occupation is another good "excuse" to explain
steadily increasing soil levels, but as far as I can see almost all UK
archaeology is getting steadily deeper and deeper, including unoccupied
sites on hills.
So where is all this soil coming from?
1. windblown dust?
2. outer space?
And why are church yards being buried? I can understand that a household
will be throwing out rubbish like ash and pots that don't rot down, but a
church yard is basically a site for the composting of organic bodies, and if
its anything like my compost bin, it seems that no matter how much you put
in it just keeps shrinking. Surely the 10s of feet around some churches
can't all be just powdered bone (or can it?).
Could it be that most of the soil around a church was brought there on
people's feet from the fields?
Just for interest - has anyone actually done research to find the origin of
all that soil?
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