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Albuquerque Journal - Parade - - TABLE - By Mar­i­lyn vos Sa­vant

Ar­chae­ol­o­gists find an­cient civ­i­liza­tions un­der­ground. How did they get cov­ered? Is our cur­rent ground level higher than it was in the past?

—W. Bren­del, Fayette, Ala. With cer­tain no­table ex­cep­tions, such as Pom­peii, only aban­doned frag­ments of past civ­i­liza­tions were buried by nat­u­ral forces. Peo­ple mi­grated and dis­sem­i­nated, leav­ing un­wanted struc­tures be­hind. De­serted build­ings de­graded from a lack of main­te­nance; plants over­took the space, died and de­cayed, build­ing lay­ers of soil over the cen­turies. Dust and de­bris from neigh­bor­ing ar­eas blew over the land, rains caused mud­slides, storms top­pled walls, earth­quakes re­shaped the lo­cal to­pog­ra­phy over time, and more.

Other frag­ments are some­times found un­der mod­ern cities, where ear­lier in­hab­i­tants slowly mor­phed into mod­ern so­ci­eties. In many cases, peo­ple found it eas­ier or more eco­nom­i­cal to fill ob­so­lete con­struc­tions and build on top of them rather than re­move them. So they were pur­posely buried by hu­mans.

Gen­er­ally, what we find un­der­ground is far more valu­able to us now than it was to the peo­ple who lived at the time.

Why don’t we feel the Earth spin­ning?

—Michelle H., Bran­don, Fla. Be­cause our at­mos­phere (which is held to the planet by grav­ity) moves along with us. Think of it like trav­el­ing in a mov­ing rail­way car: The train is rac­ing across the land­scape, and so are we, but we don’t feel the ef­fect of the high speed. Send ques­tions to

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