I’m writing a story, and ran into this not-so-minor issue – trying to get a back-of-the-envelope calculation on how long it would take various items in a ghost city to age, and what the results would look like.
The city’s set in a semi-arid environment, so there has been absolutely zip in the way of precipitation. Hot and dry should be good for preservation in some ways, right?
- Paper – how long does it take until paper that’s been kept in a dark office will reach a condition where the illuminated illustrations are still decipherable, but the paper itself will crumble into dust if touched or breathed on? That is, if such a state is achievable. Several hundred years? Closer to a thousand?
Let’s say that we have a figure on that length of time… what would the other materials listed below look like given the same amount of time?
Stone – assume some type of limestone, nothing so hard as marble. How much would the stone have weathered appreciably inside buildings with naked walls? Not at all? Top layer crumbling to the touch?
Bone – What would a skull that’d been hanging outside in the heat and so on look like? Would it have crumbled long before, or would it still be intact? It would’ve been exposed to sun, but no scavengers.
Dried beans in clay jars. Bean-flavored dust (yum!) or would they still be edible after a good soaking? The jars would have been stoppered and further sealed with a good slathering of wax, so hopefully the conditions would’ve been a bit more airtight.
Hope some of the more knowledgeable Dopers can help out with these details – my google-fu is not helpful.
Merci, gracias, etc!