Ask the Archaeologist: Why are the things from the olden days under the ground?
Why are the things from the olden days under the ground?
From Edward, age 4
Thank you for your question!
Well, there are several ways in which old stuff gets buried. Archaeologists call the process of how an archaeological site is formed taphonomy. We can break this process in to two halves:
Firstly, through natural processes.
Old stuff might get buried by flooding which brings in silt and debris that is left behind when the water retreats. A volcano might bury a site, like at Pompeii in Italy where a whole Roman town was buried! Or perhaps a landslide caused by an earthquake or lots of rain. Even earthworms can bury stuff! If you drop a coin on the grass, over the years the action of the worms will cause the coin to be slowly buried.
Secondly through the action of people.
In old towns that grew into bigger towns and cities, whole streets were often buried under layers of demolition rubble or earth intentionally brought into the towns. Archaeologists call these layers 'made ground'. People would then build up from these layers creating new streets and buildings. We can see this especially well in London where Roman streets and buildings have been buried under meters of made ground, and in York where Viking buildings and streets have been found.
People in the past often dug ditches around their houses, their villages and their fields and then rubbish (broken pottery, stone tools, animal bone etc) was thrown in to the open ditches. When the people moved away, the ditches slowly silted up and the stuff was buried for us to find later. We also find rubbish pits that people dug in the past.
Finally, people sometimes buried things intentionally. People might bury valuable stuff like coins, precious metals or weapons to protect them and keep them safe. They may have intended to return to their stuff but then something happened and they didn't, or, maybe, they were buried with the intention that they were offerings to the gods or spirit world and they would never be recovered.
Hope this helps, Edward. Happy digging!
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