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About ancient ruins- missing blocks and stone?

  1. Jan 5, 2010 #1
    Do I have this right?

    When looking at images of ancient ruins, such as at http://www.mccullagh.org/photo/1ds-4/roman-city-ruins-dougga, I was left wondering where the debris has gone to. What I gather from reading various articles is that these missing walls of marble and stone were largely scavenged. So, people carted away the fallen walls to make their own buildings, or ground them up for lime or cement? Is this the main reason why ancient ruins are so empty?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 5, 2010 #2


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    That site is amazingly well preserved, probably too far from the nearest settlement to be worth moving the stone, or the area was later inhabitted by nomads who didn't need it.

    In europe any building that was abandoned got turned into barns, field walls and lime within a generation. Often the only thing that is left is a filled in ditch where the foundations were.
  4. Jan 5, 2010 #3
    Within a generation? Wow. I take it that scavenging was a very typical way of life back then.

    This had actually been a nagging thought for years. Finally got around to asking. Thank you.
  5. Jan 5, 2010 #4


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    Depends where you are.
    Finished dressed building stone is a very expensive commodity, if you need a new house and there is a building in the next field with lots of of blocks just waiting.....

    Often in cities the ruins were lived in until the roof collapsed, then divided up into shacks with lean-to and temporary sheets, just like a modern refugee camp or shanty town. Roofs, especially stone vaulted roofs, are difficult to repair if civilisation has just collapsed.

    There is also often a political factor, when the monasteries were dissolved in 16C england the land owners were 'encouraged' to reuse the building materials in order to prevent them being reoccupied in the future. A lot of castles suffered the same fate after the civil war.

    In Rome the colliseum was used to build most of Romes early churches, then when the nobility started to use the same stone for their villas the church decided that it was a holy site because of christian matyrs and stopped the practice.
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