Site and Artifact Preservation: Natural and Cultural Formation Processes

  • Margaret Beck
Living reference work entry


One of the best-known archaeological sites in the world is Pompeii, a Roman town buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in CE 79. The disaster stopped daily life in its tracks, felling residents who were unable to escape and covering everything with a thick layer of ash. Millions of modern tourists visit Pompeii each year, now able to walk its streets, inspect its art (and graffiti), and peer into shops and homes. The casual observer might therefore imagine that most places of past human activity remain as they were in use, perhaps simply buried under a thick layer of dirt or volcanic ash. In this view, an archaeological site – much like the abandoned home described by Philip Larkin in his poem “Home Is So Sad” – “stays as it was left/Shaped to the comfort of the last to go.”

Of course, nothing stays exactly as it was left. All archaeological sites suffer the effects of time, climate, and organisms (including people). Organic materials at Pompeii that were not burnt...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Binford, L. 1987. Bones: Ancient men and modern myths. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  2. Goldberg, P., and R.I. Macphail. 2006. Practical and theoretical geoarchaeology. Malden: Wiley.Google Scholar
  3. Rye, O.S. 1981. Pottery technology: Principles and reconstruction, Manuals on archeology 4. Washington, DC: Taraxacum.Google Scholar
  4. Schiffer, M. 1987. Formation processes of the archaeological record. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.Google Scholar
  5. Sease, C. 1994. A conservation manual for the field archaeologist, Archaeological research tools 4. Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California.Google Scholar
  6. Watson, P., and C. Todeschini. 2007. The Medici conspiracy. New York: Public Affairs.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Martin Carver
    • 1
  • Sandra Monton Subias
    • 2
  • Bisserka Gaydarska
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyUniversity of YorkYorkUK
  2. 2.Departament d'HumanitatsICREA/Universitat Pompeu Fabra.BarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Department of ArchaeologyDurham UniversityDurhamUK