Climate Change and the World Archaeological Heritage


Sometimes a “good” archaeologist.

Long-lost Roman statue "unearthed" by winter storms along the coast of Israel (Photo: Reuters)

Other times a “bad” archaeologist.

Terra-cotta artworks at Mahasthangarh in Bangladesh are threatened by heavy rainfall and highly saline soil (Photo: Susan Liebold)


A March/April 2009 feature article, “Climate Change: Sites in Peril,” published in Archaeology magazine, discusses some of the environmental threats facing archaeological sites around the world.  Global warming, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, increased rainfalls, desertification — all have contributed to the degradation of the world archaeological heritage on a vastly observable scale.  Entire sites have been and will continue to close to the public as cultural heritage specialists assess permanent damage and risk factors.  Archaeologists, too, will be washed out and wind-driven away from the very source of their profession.  Though they cannot stop climate change (sorry Palin, global warming is not “snake oil science”) from altering the physical landscape around them, archaeologists from Peru to Switzerland to Sudan are working fast to combat its impact on historic sites and artifacts.  Mapping, excavating, documenting, and photographing occurs at an unprecedented if not critical pace before these cultural  resources are lost forever.  To be sure, their concerns are as much intellectual as they are professional.  Albert Hafner of the University of Bern refers to record lows of ice cover in the Swiss Alps, “I think in the next years if there is a hot summer, the ice will disappear completely.  I’m very happy to find the objects because they will give us new inputs, but I am not happy about the climate change. I’m an archaeologist, but I’m also an alpinist.”

So, even as the calendar changes, it remains a huge uncertainty as to the future state of our shared archaeological heritage.

This entry was posted in archaeology, Bangladesh, climate change, culture, Culture in Peril, endangered sites, heritage, Israel. Bookmark the permalink.

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