The enemy of archeology everywhere is salt. It destroys buildings, disassembles art works, and can turn ancient pottery into piles of dust.
How salt lays waste to these artifacts is well known, but scientists in Switzerland have monitored the process in a laboratory. Their observations could help preserve the buildings, art, and treasured relics of humanity.
The salts in question are not just sodium chloride, the salt on your dining room table or in the sea, but substances such as fluorides, sulfates, and acetates — substances formed when acids and bases interact. It can affect sites in the desert or along the coast, or anywhere with high humidity, said Robert Flatt, professor of building materials at ETH Zurich, an engineering institute in Switzerland. Even the Sistine Chapel can be affected. Read more.