The Ice-Age Legacy of Mount Auburn Cemetery

Originally a presentation and walking tour with Volunteer Robin Hazard Ray

An Ice Age is any era in which the Earth is all or partly covered by ice. Though our planet has experienced a warming period recently (the last 11,000 years, with many ups and downs), it is still in an Ice Age! The current one has lasted about 2 million years, with long intervals of warmer climate. During the most recent period of glaciation in the northern hemisphere, great thicknesses of ice covered the northern continents from the Arctic down to New York and deep into the Midwest.

The sediments – sands, gravels, and clays – that make up Mt. Auburn Cemetery were created by the crushing of bedrock beneath and alongside flowing glaciers. The sedimentary material traveled south inside a glacier or series of glaciers that occupied a valley, now buried, that runs from Roxbury across the Charles River north through Wilmington. The endpoint of a glacier, where the largest amounts of sediment are dropped upon melting, are called moraines. The Fresh Pond Moraine lies immediately to our north.