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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/679

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ROCK-WEATHERING IN CHURCHYARDS.

considerably in the center, and on the blister-like expansion has been rent by numerous cracks which run on the whole in the direction of the length of the stone.

A further stage of decay is exhibited by a remarkable tomb on the west wall of the Greyfriars Churchyard. The marble slab, bearing a now almost wholly effaced inscription, on which the date 1779 can be seen, is still held tightly within its inclosing frame of sandstone slabs, which are firmly built into the wall. But it has swollen out into a ghastly protuberance in the center, and is, moreover, seamed with rents which strike inward from the margins. In this and in some other examples the marble seems to have undergone most change on the top of the swelling, partly from the system of fine fissures by which it is broken up, and partly from more direct and effective access of rain. Eventually the cohesion of the stone at that part is destroyed, and the crumbling marble falls out, leaving a hole in the middle of the slab. When this takes place disintegration proceeds rapidly. Three years ago I sketched a tomb in this stage on the east wall of Canongate Churchyard. In a recent visit to the place I found that the whole of the marble had since fallen out.

The first cause that naturally suggests itself, in explanation of this remarkable change in the structure of a substance usually regarded as so inelastic, is the action of frost. White statuary marble is naturally porous. It is rendered still more so by that internal solution which I have described. The marble tombstones in our graveyards are, therefore, capable of imbibing a relatively large amount of moisture. When this interstitial water is frozen, its expansive force as it passes into the solid state must increase the isolation of the granules and augment the dimensions of a marble block. I am inclined to believe that this must be the principal cause of the change. Whatever may be the nature of the process, it is evidently one which acts from within the marble itself. Microscopic examination fails to discover any chemical transformation which would account for the expansion. Dr. Angus Smith has pointed out that in towns the mortar of walls may be observed to swell up and lose cohesion from a conversion of its lime into the condition of sulphate. I have already mentioned that sulphate does exist within the substance of the marble, but that its quantity so far as I have observed is too small to be taken into account in this question. The expansive power is exerted in such a way as not sensibly to affect the internal structure and composition of the stone, and this, I imagine, is most probably the work of frost.

The results of my observations among our burial-grounds show that, save in exceptionally sheltered situations, slabs of marble exposed to the weather in such a climate and atmosphere as those of Edinburgh are entirely destroyed in less than a century. When this destruction takes place by simple comparatively rapid superficial solution and removal of the stone, the rate of lowering of the surface amounts sometimes to