Understanding past environments
Did you know that seventeen lost pyramids were recently located in Egypt by the use of satellite remote sensing,
revealing sub-surface structures made from denser materials than the surface sand or silt?
Traditionally archaeologists gathered information from excavations and soil removed was discarded. Modern research allows soils exposed during excavation to become an important resource in understanding the past environment. Soil science has become another tool for the archaeologist, helping to focus excavations. Remote sensing techniques combined with field mapping can direct excavations to key sites and even to buried structures, ditches, and refuse dumps.
The goal of excavations is to illuminate past cultures or civilisations, including an understanding of the environment.
The study of buried soils reveals conditions at the time; pollen from agricultural crops explains farming practices. Artefacts are the real prize for the archaeologist and the soils in which an object is buried influence its preservation. Wood, leather and bone artefacts will survive well when air is absent in a soil and the site is waterlogged. Gold doesn't noticeably decay at all.