Three weeks ago IIC ran another dialogue in conjunction with University College, London looking at the issue of preservation of archaeology in a time of climate change. It was facilitated by Dr May Cassar, Professor of Sustainable Heritage at UCL, and a guru in this area. The two dialogue respondents were Andrew Curry, an archaeological journalist and Wouter Gheyle, a practising archaeologist.
A range of sites were discussed by the two of them where rising seal levels and changing weather patterns are threatening insitu archaeology, including:
- Pinnacle Point in South Africa, one of the earliest settlements of modern humans
- Gorham’s Cave in Gibraltar, containing 120,000 years of human history and the last traces of Neanderthal presence in Europe
- Santa Rosa Island in California where 16,000 year old middens are being washed away
- Dead Man’s Bay in Greenland where 3,000 year old excavated houses are being lost through coastal erosion
- Skara Brae in the Orkney Islands, containing 5,000 year old underground preserved houses and contents
- The Altai Mountains on the Mongolia/Russia border where the melting of the permafrost is thawing frozen 2,400 year old Scythian tombs
Following the presentations by Curry and Gheyle there was an opportunity for open dialogue, and there was the inevitable question as to whether global warming is anything new in the history of the planet. As Curry responded there have always been natural weather changes that happen over thousands of years. But what we are seeing now is much faster and more destructive, and therein lies the problem. Weather patterns are becoming more extreme and unfamiliar. Some moderately hot places are becoming deserts and others where moderate rain used to fall, are now experiencing torrential rain and flooding.
As Australia experiences a wet, wet summer with extensive and damaging flooding, the climate change deniers are claiming they are right and there is no global warming evident in this part of the world. In reality it is precisely because the planet is warming up that we are getting these extreme weather patterns.
It’s an issue that is effecting us all, like it or not, and we in the conservation world need to start prioritising what we can save.
Check out the dialogue online.