Preserving Rural Settlement Sites in Norway? Investigations of Archaeological Deposits in a Changing Climate. Implications for Archaeological Heritage Management
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionGeoarchaeological and Bioarchaeological Studies. 2016, 16 91-103.
Since the adoption of the Malta Convention (Council of Europe 1992), the strategy of cultural heritage management in many countries has changed from ex situ to in situ preservation of archaeological remains. The question is whether this change in strategy increases the protection or the risk of losing the undocumented heritage it was meant to protect? The strategy puts a large responsibility on present and future generations, as the concept of in situ preservation implies that the heritage sites remain unchanged ‘forever’. To ensure that in situ preservation may be considered a possibility, knowledge about the present state of preservation as well as the physical and chemical conditions for future preservation capacity is necessary. This accumulated knowledge is called environmental monitoring. The alternatives to in situ preservation are to simply let sites deteriorate and eventually disappear, or to preserve through detailed archaeological investigation and documentation, also called ex situ preservation or preservation by record. The possibilities, limitations and consequences of in situ site preservation are main topics of this work. The focus of this thesis is on three complex topics; in situ preservation of unsaturated archaeological deposits (discussed in chapters 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7), rural medieval archaeology (discussed in chapters 3, 4, 6 and 7) and effects of climate change on archaeological remains (discussed in chapters 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7), all within the context of Norwegian Cultural Heritage management and research. Specific aims of the present study are; • To which extent is archaeological contextual readability retained in rural archaeological deposits at different stages of degradation? • Which are the possible effects of the rates of degradation on their contextual readability? • Is it possible to define threshold levels in the archaeological deposits? • When archaeological observations are coupled with environmental parameters, can one define which parameters most affect the present conservation state and conditions for future in situ preservation of archaeological deposits in the unsaturated zone? • What may be the effects of climate change on these parameters? • How can studies of artefact preservation and microscopic and macroscopic subfossils contribute to evaluations of state of preservation? • Can degradation processes be curbed or mitigated? If so, which mitigation strategies may be required for the investigated sites? • How may this contribute to a decision support system for cultural heritage management? The results of the research presented here have demonstrated that it is possible to define parameters that most affect preservation of archaeological sites and it is possible to see effects of climate change on these parameters. That accentuates the importance of preparing strategies to deal with the effects of climate change on the preservation of cultural heritage sites. This work advocates the necessity for the development of sustainable mitigating actions for a number of different threat situations as exemplified in the threshold levels, and to evaluate the scientific potential of sites chosen for in situ preservation.