Week 7 Readings on Climate Change & Archaeology

This week our readings focused on the complex issue of climate change and archaeology. Mr. Alson Ovando–a student of the Natural Resources program at the University of Belize–provided us with a couple summaries and a series of discussion questions that helped to shape and direct our two-hour conversation. This week we had 14 participants from Belize, Mexico, Canada, and the US. A huge thanks to our very special “climate change” guests, Dr. Heather McKillop, Dr. Cory Sills, Dr. Rachel Watson, and Ms. Kelsey Pennanen, for taking part.

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Article #1: Momber, G., Tidbury, L., Satchell, J., and Mason, B. (2017.) Improving management responses to coastal change: utilising sources from archeology, maps, charts, photographs and art. In Public Archaeology & Climate Change, edited by T. Dawson, C. Nimura, E. López-Romero, and M-Y. Daire, pp. 34-43. Oxbow Books, Oxford, UK.

The first article for this week’s discussion details the work that was done by the Arch-Manche project in the United Kingdom to monitor and manage the effects of climate change along the British coast. Various pressures stemming from anthropogenic forces have led to a rise in sea level and loss of coastal land coverage. By using concepts from Integrated Coastal Zone Management, the Arch-Manche presents a creative way to track and monitor climate change using best practices from paleogeology, paleogeography, paleoenvironmental studies, and even archeology. The methods used by the project include looking at sites that have been affected by sea-level rise and comparing them to maps, charts, photographs and art to understand how the land has changed over time. The article concludes by suggesting that future coastal zone managers should integrate archeological and paleoenvironmental knowledge into their management framework to protect important marine areas as well as coastal heritage sites.

Article #2: Hollensen, J., Matthiesen, H., Madsen, C. K., Albrechtsen, B., Kroon, A., and Elberling, B. (2017.) Climate change and the preservation of archeological sites in Greenland. In Public Archaeology & Climate Change, edited by T. Dawson, C. Nimura, E. López-Romero, and M-Y. Daire, pp. 90-99. Oxbow Books, Oxford, UK.

As the climate begins to change archeological sites found in colder climates are now facing threats from an increase in rising global temperature. The melting of ice sheets in the arctic region is leading to an increase in sea-level rise resulting in coastal erosion at an alarming rate around Greenland. Loss of snow cover has also led to a loss in natural insulation in the soil that has helped to preserve artifacts found on the island. Preliminary studies have been conducted to investigate how climate change is affecting the archeology in the area. However, for the time being, it is important that researchers maintain a close relationship with locals to better locate and monitor archeological sites that can be affected by climate change.

Discussion Questions: *not in any particular order*

  1. Is climate change affecting coastal heritage sites in Belize? What of terrestrial/in-land heritage sites like Alabama? If so, how?
  2. Is archeology well represented in the protection and management of protected areas in Belize?
  3. Are archeologists satisfied with the available datasets on environmental factors that can be helpful to arrive at interpretations about climate change in the past and present? Example: geological data, meteorological data, land use data, etc. What datasets currently exist for the Stann Creek District?
  4. What are some indicators that archeology can help produce that can be used to track climate change? What of community involvement?
  5. What are some natural ecological threats to archeology that are found in Belize?