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date: 11 April 2021

(p. 647) A Vulnerable Cultural Heritage: Preservation and Conservation


It is well known that wetland archaeological sites across the world are particularly vulnerable to modern environmental change—a problem that will probably be made worse by projected climate changes in the next few decades. Coastal and lakeshore erosion—and the major engineered developments put in to defend against them—drainage, water abstraction, and the loss of bogs and marshlands as global temperatures rise may well destroy unique cultural and natural archives that have survived for thousands of years. Many people have recognized these threats in different countries, and a range of policies and strategies are being developed to save and protect these archaeological and environmental resources. Importantly, as the chapters in this section show, the most successful projects are those that engage with local communities in the investigation and protection of the past.

Denis Ramseyer (Chapter 38) describes the innovative strategies and methods developed in Switzerland, France, Germany, and elsewhere in the Circum-Alpine zone to protect lake-shore wetland sites, and he also describes various developments in northern European boglands to protect and preserve wetland archaeological sites in situ. With regard to the former, undoubtedly the decision by UNESCO in 2011 to inscribe ‘Prehistoric Lake-Dwellings around the Alps; on the World Heritage List will be seen as historic and timely.

(p. 648) Dilys Johns (Chapter 39) discusses the ways that wetland archaeologists and conservators have steadily developed better means of treating and conserving waterlogged archaeological materials such as wood, fibrework, and basketry. Her chapter also describes how conservators in New Zealand work closely with Maori tribal groups, recognizing their important role in customary guardianship of cultural materials that are more than just archaeological objects.

Adrian Olivier (Chapter 40) reviews a range of government and international policies and strategies—particularly those associated with the Ramsar Convention—for managing and protecting wetland environments, stressing in particular the need for archaeologists to work closely with other sectors and the public.

Finally, Dale Croes (Chapter 41) explores how archaeologists have worked with native communities across the Pacific Northwest Coast—in Alaska, Washington and Oregon States, USA, and in British Columbia, Canada. He describes a range of joint archaeological projects that really are demonstrations of best practice and provide inspirational lessons and guidelines for any archaeologist who might want to work with local stakeholders anywhere in the world.