Life of a core sample

Core samples can be gathered from all over the world. Here, core samples are being taken from an intertidal site at Somerset.

They can be removed from the ground using a variety of techniques; either hand powered or mechanical in nature. We can take them from dry land, inter-tidal and underwater contexts.

Once removed from the site they are taken to the BOSCORF (British Ocean Sediment Core Research Facility) Core store at the National Oceanographic Centre in Southampton. Here they are split in half. One section becomes an archive to be stored for later researchers, the other the ‘working’ section. Once split the core can be recorded; noting the change in sediments, colour and inclusions.

This core is over 10,000 years old and is from the southern North Sea and shows an old riverbed at the base, covered by a wetland system and then a slow shift through the development of an estuary before finally becoming fully inundated by the sea.

It is also possible to use more advanced technology to examine the cores. At the university of Southampton we have one of the few ITRAX machines that is able to take extremely high-resolution images, as well as x-rays and xRF data. The x-rays allow us to see variation in the density of core material, and to pick out microstructures not visible to the eye. The xRF data gives detail on the variation of chemical elements in the core.

Once examined, the cores are stored in a temperature control storage area. As you can see we have thousands of cores, from all over the world giving us a wealth of crucial archaeological data.

If you enjoyed this, you might like this article about how core samples can be used.

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