Preservation of anthropogenic deposits and features

The classification and characterisation of artificial ground provide a means to quantify the magnitude or anthropogenic activity. However, in geological time this is dependent on its subsurface preservation.

In general the longer-term preservation potential for material deposited in terrestrial environments is far lower than that for marine environments. This presents a particular challenge for the preservation of artificial ground that is preferentially developed on land.

Natural terrestrial processes including the weathering effects of wind and ice and the erosive potential of relatively high-energy fluvial systems conspire to level the land surface (transporting material to the marine environment).

The proportion of marine strata (including coastal delta deposits) in the three billion-year-old bedrock geological record in Great Britain is almost three times that for strata deposited in a terrestrial environment (Great Britain’s bedrock geology comprises approximately:

  • 57% marine deposits
  • 20% terrestrial deposits
  • balance of 23% represented by igneous or metamorphic strata

It is therefore likely that artificial ground associated with coastal plain cities may have the greatest potential for preservation.

Archaeological deposits
Whitewall Quarry
Mahe, Seychelles. (Photo: Gareth Jenkins).


Contact Ms Stephanie Bricker (Urban Geoscience) for further information