Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Preserved through time Part.II

Like lakes and rivers, bogs and marshes preserve organic remains by excluding oxygen. Wetlands are often acidic, which prevents the growth of bacteria. They dissolve bone and preserve skin. A number of wooden track ways survive in waterlogged sites in Europe, such as the Sweet track in Somerset levels in England- the oldest road in the world, built in about 4000BC. Wooden tools, basketry, and foods such as nuts have been found near these tracks. But the best known wetland finds are bog bodies- mainly Iron Age victims of human sacrifice. Often, they would that caused their death is still visible.
In the cold regions of Central Asia and the Arctic temperatures are often too low for organic decay to take place. Spectacular finds have included whole woolly mammoths, frozen corpses clad in garments made of fur, feathers, and skins, and many artifacts made of wood and leather.
In the icy Taklimakan desert in Central Asia, abandoned wooden towns from the 1st millennium BC are still standing. The personal possessions of their inhabitants survive- felt garments, wooden musical instruments, mousetraps, and documents written on wooden slips and paper. They are evidence of the harsh life lived by the Chinese officials sent to man the desert out posts on the ancient silk road.
Granary in side  a tomb about 1800BC
The micro organisms which cause decay operate on most effectively in hot, most environments, making humid rainforests a poor place to seek organic remains of the past. But when heat is combined with a lack of moisture, the resulting conditions are just right for preservation. Desert caves n the Mexican highlands have provided abundant archaeological material, such as desiccated plant remains, which shed light on the early history of agriculture in the region. More direct evidence of early food stuffs has been discovered in coprolites- dried faces.
Sweet Track-  Prehistoric track way in Somerset, England

Hot deserts have also preserved objects made of wood, rope reeds, and many other plants and animal materials.  In south west America, desert finds have included rope sandals and decoy ducks beautifully constructed out of reeds, duck skin, and feathers, used for catching wildfowl in about 1500 BC. Even human bodies can survive in these conditions. The corpses of Egyptians buried in desert sands before 3000BC were perfectly preserved by desiccation – an effect that may have inspired the later practice of mummification.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.