Beneath our feet lies an invisible realm, mysterious and forgotten. A sacred vault untouched by human hands containing records of ancient landscapes and invisible rivers flowing through hidden valleys.
To venture into these depths is to go back in time. The lower our descent, the further back we travel.
In setting out to create a space for stillness and intimate contact with the earth, we were amazed by what we discovered when we started digging.
Peeling back the layers
Located on a previously farmed field at Lourensford Estate in Somerset West, the EARTHBOX site has three distinct and discernable layers of soil: Topsoil, Transported Soils and Lateritic (Plinthic) Soils.
Deposited by wind and water and combined with decomposing organic matter, the topsoil is brown, slightly clayey silt. Previously disturbed by agricultural activities to a depth of 0.7m, it bears traces of orchards uprooted decades ago.
Just below the topsoil, transported soil comprises a 1.4m thick layer of light yellowish brown, fine silty sand with scattered sandstone cobbles, and pebbled gravel marking the base of the layer.
Geologists estimate that this soil was deposited here (and throughout the Lourensford River valley) somewhere between 66 million years to 2.6 million years ago.
To put it into context:
This is when the Pliocene epoch came to an end and when the Megalodon as well as countless other mammals and marine megafauna went extinct.
It’s also when our oldest human relatives first walked the earth. This makes you among the first and only modern humans ever to touch these ancient layers.
Finally, as we descend into the main chamber, we find ourselves surrounded by rich orange clay originating from the Tygerberg Formation of the Malmesbury Group, originally formedthe rich orange clay characterising the Tygerberg Formation of the Malmesbury Group, formed roughly 635 - 541 million years ago, before being eroded and transported here to their current resting place 2.6 million years ago.
Here, you might notice distinctive colouration - mottled yellow, red and/or black flecks - created over centuries by the movement of iron in fluctuating groundwater.
If you look closely, you can see traces of long-lost waterways: the rounded pebbles recall the flow of the rivers & streams that shaped them and their shape in the walls reflects the riverbeds where they came to rest.
200 000 years ago, these streams gave water to the ancestors and relatives of the Khoi and San peoples that later lived here.
The presence of their stone tools in layers of sediment in the region helps scientists date the history of humanity.
The aftermath of EARTHBOX
When EARTHBOX closes, all the excavated earth (temporarily used in berms and landscape) will be returned to the earth, filling the hole in the respective layers.
All the materials used in construction will be removed, the roof dismantled and repurposed, boards and roof sheets donated and the entry pavilion auctioned to enjoy another life.
The field will return to its prior appearance.
The earth returning to its ancient dreams.