Assignment: Weathering and Soil Formation

In this assessment, you will visit a cemetery to observe weathering and erosion. You will also identify the types of rocks present, speculate on the weathering process and explain what happens during erosion. Remember to access the tips and hints at the bottom of the page.

Basic Requirements (assignment criteria):

For this assessment, you will investigate your local soil and you will need to visit a local cemetery. This will require you to make sure you know the hours for visitation. Make sure you have these instructions and a camera with you.

If you can’t identify a rock, describe it as thoroughly as possible so you can recognize each time you see it. Listing any minerals you see present can also help with recognition. At the least, you should be able to identify the stones as igneous, sedimentary or metamorphic.

You will need to look at the lettering on the stones, both for a date and to see how deep and clear the lettering remains. It can also be beneficial to make “rubbings” of the writing on the tombstones. This can make it easier to see the degree of weathering.

You will also want to look at how well the decorations on the stones have been preserved.

Part I:

Look over the questions below for other ideas on making observations.

IMPORTANT: Remember that the cemetery is a reserve. You should not scratch the stones or deface them or the grave plots in any way.

Make a chart to log and record your data. You can also insert your pictures into the chart.


  1. What is the oldest tombstone you found? What material is this stone made of?
  2. What is the youngest tombstone? What material is it composed of?
  3. Visit and record the data for at least 10 tombstones. Make sure you do not visit ones side by side, visit other areas of the cemetery. It may be possible to tell which area is the oldest. If so, gather information there and then move to the newer parts of the cemetery.

Take a picture of each tombstone for use later. Make sure you make a note of which picture goes with which number in your chart. It would be best to number them as you take the picture and save it.

  1. Look over the chart and your pictures. What material(s) seem to you to be the most resistant to weathering? Why is this?
  2. What material(s) seem to you to be the least resistant to weathering? Why is this?
  3. Describe the processes that seem to be the most important in weathering the gravestones. Which rock type(s) are affected by each of these processes?
  4. How has weathering affected other materials in the cemetery besides the tombstones?
  5. Speculate what happened to the rock that has been weathered away.
  6. Explain the role weathering and erosion play in the process of soil formation?

Make sure you include pictures of the oldest and the youngest tombstone.

Make sure you include your name and the name of the cemetery on your document.

Part II:

Go the this USDA Soil Taxonomy Wiki Site (Links to an external site.) and read about the different soil types. Click on the map on the right hand side in the box to enlarge it. As best as you can, identify the soil type found in your area (state is probably easier on that map). Once you have identified your soil type, you can read about it on this site or any others of your choosing. In your own words, describe the soil in your area. Then choose one other soil type listed to compare it to. How are the two soils similar? How are the two soils different? Include a drawing or picture of both soil profiles. If you use a picture or information from a different site, please make sure you list the source beneath the picture (just the website will do).


This assessment is adapted from “Cemetery Geology” by Mary Savina, originally found here (Links to an external site.)




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