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Understanding the sediments through cake

What exactly are the sediments at Star Carr like? In this article Professor Nicky Milner explains by using a cake.
A picture of a cake which has been created to represent the layers of sediment at Star Carr
© University of York

The sediments in the waterlogged deposits at Star Carr differ depending on the depth of the deposit.

At the bottom we find the waterlogged organic mud which is saturated with water and very dense. As a consequence, very little oxygen can penetrate and therefore organic remains like wood and plant materials (leaves, moss stems, pollen etc) can survive.

Above this, the wooden platform now sits above the water table meaning that oxygen has got into these deposits and deterioration has occurred.

As we move higher up the profile the peat becomes less waterlogged and towards the top it becomes very dry and crumbly because oxygen has entered the deposits and severe biological decay has taken place. In these soils the plant remains have gone.

This can be nicely illustrated using cake! Here, we used a chocolate brownie bake for the base – this is very gooey and squidgy and dense which nicely represents the organic muds. On top of this we have chocolate flakes to represent the wooden platform (held in place with chocolate buttercream). Above this is a chocolate sponge which is layered and sandwiched with chocolate buttercream. The sponge, and specifically the air pockets within it, represents the degrading peat.

If you like chocolate, this is also a very good cake to eat!

If you want to have a go at making your own Star Carr cake we would love to see it and you can upload images onto our padlet wall Star Carr cake

Further resources

To find out more about the sediment at Star Carr, read Chapter 20

© University of York
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Exploring Stone Age Archaeology: The Mysteries of Star Carr

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