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If the water has the right chemical composition and pH,
it can be a very good preservative indeed.  If you've
ever seen pictures of those 5,000 year old "bog men"
they dig out of peat bogs in the Europe, you know what
I mean.   If you haven't seen them, follow this link:

http://dsc.discovery.com/stories/history/desertmummies/tollundman.html

Its pretty amazing.

John Montana

Roach, Bill J. wrote:

>>>water and dirt on each "thin" layer of paper would hasten the
>>>
> decomposition.<<
>
> Just an observation on this. Many years ago, we used to dig untreated
> railroad ties out of a swamp at an abandoned logging camp.  They had been in
> place for nearly 80 years.  The ties were slightly discolored from the swamp
> water, but the wood looked like it was freshly cut.
>
> The same tie, if left out on the ground and not submerged in water, would
> have rotted into powder in about 5 years.
>
> I suspect the same would apply to documents that are submersed in water.
> They may not deteriorate for long periods of time. Without access to oxygen,
> decomposition of wood fiber is a very slow process.
>
>

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