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A Journey to a New Land

Mountain Goats
Multimedia Library

Peter Locher

Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University

What Can We Learn from Geomorphology?

The land forms that I am looking for are made of sediments - basically gravels, sands, clays, and silts. They usually have strata (layering, or bedding as we call it), that can tell us something about past environments. Basically they would tell us how they were formed and when they were formed. The strata can tell me something by the size of the sediments that it contains, by the colour, by the direction of the layers - these things will tell me what kind of landform I am looking at when I look at an exposure. It will also tell me where sea levels might have been at that time. Also these landforms might contain organic materials that can be used for dating. They might contain shells which again could be dated and tell me about the sea level at that time. They might also contain little organisms such as diatoms, which are little plants that have very different shapes and sizes, based on whether they lived in salt water or in fresh water. If I find these diatoms in one of my layers, I can tell when I look at them under the microscope whether they were formed in salt water or in fresh water lakes. So again that will tell me something about the relative sea levels at that time.