Global Climate Change Is Slowly Destroying Many Archaeological Sites

Global Climate Change Is Threatening Archaeology Across the Globe, Experts Warned Through Articles Published in the Journal Antiquity.

Nov 2, 2022By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
Global Climate change
Daihatsu landing craft in Saipan in 2012 vs 2017, after super typhoon Soudelor hit the Philippines and Saipan in 2015. (J. Carpenter, Western Australian Museum)


Global climate change is putting pressure on one of science’s earliest fields of discovery: archaeology. Scientists say drought and other climate change impacts are undermining their ability to protect and document important sites before they degrade or disappear.


“Global climate change is accelerating and creating new risks” – Hollesen

Global climate change problems
Argali sheep remains emerge from a melting glacier at Tsengel Khairkha, western Mongolia and an animal-hair rope artifact from an ice patch near Tsengel Khairkhan. (W. Taylor and P. Bittner)


Desertification can wear down ancient ruins. It could also hide them under the dunes. As a result, researchers are scrambling to keep track of where they’re buried. Researchers from Europe, Asia, Australia, North and Latin America released four papers on how the effects of the global climate change are destroying archaeological environments.


Global climate change is accelerating, amplifying existing risks and creating new ones. As a result, the consequences could be devastating for the global archaeological record”, writes Jørgen Hollesen, a senior researcher at the National Museum of Denmark.


Extreme weather causes an impossibility of researching shipwrecks. Also, coastal sites are particularly at risk from erosion. Hollessen also writes there is a huge erosion of sites from different places. From Iran to Scotland, Florida to Rapa Nui and beyond.


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Meanwhile, around half of all wetlands vanished or may soon dry out. Some of them, like the famous Tollund Man in Denmark, are under good preservation. “The excavation of waterlogged sites is expensive and funding is under limitation. We need to make a decision about how many, and how completely, threatened sites can come under excavation”, writes Henning Matthiesen of the National Museum of Denmark eand his colleagues.


Archaeologists Are Left Out From Fighting For the Preservation

Archaeology, Global Climate Change
via:Instagram @jamesgabrown


On the other hand, Cathy Daly of the University of Lincoln, studied the inclusion of cultural sites in the climate adaptation plans of low- and middle-income countries. Although 17 of the 30 countries surveyed include heritage or archaeology in their plans, only three mention specific actions to be carried out.


“The study demonstrates that local adaptation plans are underway in some countries. Those countries are Nigeria, Colombia and Iran,” Hollesen writes. “However, there is a disconnect between global climate change policymakers and the cultural heritage sector worldwide. This shows lack of knowledge, coordination, recognition and funding.”


According to Daly and her colleagues: “Global climate change is a shared challenge. The best route to solutions will undoubtedly be a shared path.”


There are global efforts in trying to combat and adapt to global climate change. On the other hand, Hollesen says heritage sectors and archaeologists are often left out of the planning. However, there are ways for environmental work and archeology to not only co-exist but help with each other’s preservation.


via:Instagram @world_archaeology


Researchers say they hope their findings emphasize the need for not only concrete planning, but immediate action to preserve the world’s history. “I’m not saying we are going to lose everything within the next two years. But, we need these artifacts and archaeological sites to tell us about the past. It’s like a puzzle, and we’re losing some of the pieces”, he said.


“We should also use archaeology to provide people to make these climate initiatives more relevant for them. Maybe you may have a local connection to these projects.”

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.