How is it that ancient cities and temples became buried?
First of all, by virtue of the fact that ancient buildings that are buried (and thereby protected from further damage & looting,) are the ones we usually find. I know that sounds like circular reasoning, but think of it this way; if a ancient city is not buried, for whatever reasons, it would be carted and/or eroded away over the centuries.
So what are buildings/cities buried in? First of all, themselves. Hardly any structures more than waist-high ever survive; roughly waist-high walls are surrounded by the rubble of the top-half of the building when it was either torn down by the "enemies" or fell in disrepair. Then nature takes over; plants and trees grow up in and around these structures, dropping leaves, and creating soil. Also, winds blow, and sand/soil naturally piles up around obstructions (the rubble.)
In most cases, cities have been rebuilt many times over throughout history, and on the same site, by virtue of the fact it is a good site to build a city. Until the modern era, most buildings were only one or two floors high, so a good foundation was not necessary. (Also, working by hand makes it difficult to get down to virgin subsoil, as is required today.) So what happened, people would gather up what stones they could salvage, and built on top of the older layer of rubble. Throughout the mid-east and Europe, you can still find hills that are formed this way--successive civilizations building and re-building on the same site. Archaeologists call a hill like this a 'tel', and are eager to excavate it because of the treasure-trove of artifacts from numerous civilizations. Unfortunately, a tel also presents a thorny dilemma; in order to uncover the next, older layer, you have to disturb the layer above it.
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