Sunday, July 01, 2018


For millennia, the cold has conserved ivory artifacts, driftwood houses and human remains in often near-perfect conditions. But with faster and more severe climate change in the poles than the rest of the world, the situation has become desperate, with far more sites that will soon be lost than scientists have the time or resources to document. "An increasing number of ancient sites and structures around the world are now at risk of being lost," said the study published Thursday in the research journal Antiquity.
"Once destroyed, these resources are gone forever, with irrevocable loss of human heritage and scientific data."

There are at least 180,000 sites in an area that covers more than 12 million square kilometers (4.6 million square miles) in Canada, Russia, Alaska and Greenland.

Researchers pointed to an Inuit village on the Mackenzie River delta that was the site of first European contact, as an example of lost heritage. In 1826, a member of explorer John Franklin's famed Arctic expedition reported 17 winter houses and a communal structure there. Today, there is nothing left. "It is often assumed that the remoteness and the climate associated with these sites provide protection enough... however, climate change means that this may no longer be the case," the study concluded, noting that Arctic temperatures have risen twice as fast as in temperate regions. Paradoxically, their remoteness also make it hard for scientists to reach these sites.

Last month, an organized a panel of 30 archaeologists and indigenous leaders to brainstorm an emergency response to the "crisis."

Other effects of global warming cited in the study include storms, the growth of vegetation covering the landscape, tundra fires, resource development, and the arrival of tourists navigating increasingly ice-free Arctic waters and illegally picking over coastal archaeological sites for souvenirs. For most archaeological sites, experts are recommending excavation and high resolution documentation—which includes the collection of artifacts, mapping out their exact locations and compiling the data for later study.



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