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Chapter 12, pages 306-321 - Thames & Hudson

Chapter 12, pages 306-321 - Thames & Hudson

Chapter 12, pages 306-321 - Thames &

The Future of the PastManaging our heritage306THE DESTRUCTION OF THE PASTTHE RESPONSE: SURVEY, CONSERVATION,AND MITIGATIONSurveyConservation and MitigationThe Practice of CRM in the United StatesInternational ProtectionPUBLICATION, ARCHIVES, AND RESOURCES:SERVING THE PUBLICWHAT USE IS THE PAST?Study Questions2SummaryFurther ReadingWhat is the future of archaeology? Can our disciplinecontinue to produce new information about the human past, the evolution ofour species, and the achievements of humankind? This is one of the dilemmaswhich currently confront all archaeologists, and indeed all those concerned tounderstand the human past. For just as global warming and increasing pollutionthreaten the future ecology of our planet, so the record of the past is today facedby forces of destruction that demand a coherent and energetic response.Some of those forces of destruction have been discussed earlier, and othersare confronted here. The big question continues to be: what can be done? That isthe problem that faces us, whose solution will determine the future both of ourdiscipline and of the material record which it seeks to understand. Here we reviewtwo parallel approaches: conservation (protection) and mitigation. The two,working together, have generated in recent years new attitudes toward the practiceof archaeology, which may yet offer viable solutions.THE DESTRUCTION OFTHE PASTThere are two main agencies of destruction, both of them human. One is theconstruction of roads, quarries, dams, office blocks, etc. These are conspicuousand the threat is at least easily recognizable. A different kind of destruction –agricultural intensification – is slower but much wider in its extent, thus inthe long term much more destructive. Elsewhere, reclamation schemes aretransforming the nature of the environment, so that arid lands are being floodedand wetlands, such as those in Florida, are being reclaimed through drainage.The result is destruction of remarkable archaeological evidence. A third agentof destruction is conflict, the most obvious current threat being in the war zonesof the Middle East.There are two further human agencies of destruction, which should not beoverlooked. The first is tourism, which, while economically having importanteffects on archaeology, makes the effective conservation of archaeological sites12 THE FUTURE OF THE PAST 307

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