• The exposed granite terrain in Cornwall, England is an example of a palimpsest landscape. (Photo: Eleanor Oakley/Wikimedia Commons)


While palimpsest often refers to a writing material on which the original script has been erased (though not completely) and written over again, in geography, the word means a place or landscape in which something new is superimposed over traces of something preceding it.

Latin, Greek; 1655-65
From palímpsēstos, meaning 'again rubbed smooth'

In west Cornwall, England, the weathered granite bedrock gives the area its classic rough-hewn look. It also birthed a booming tin mining business. This interplay between human activity and the physical terrain manifests a palimpsest landscape that evokes layers of cultural identity and geological history.