The effects of climate change are so far-reaching that we don't often think about the cultural ramifications. That's where the journal Archaeology comes in: according to a recent story, climate change is doing a number on a number of sites and might make it harder for us to understand our past. From the story:
Rising sea levels are eating away at coastal sites, increased rainfall is eroding mud-brick ruins, creeping desert sands are blasting the traces of ancient civilizations, and the melting of ice is causing millennia-old organic remains to rot. "With climate change, we're feeling a sense of urgency," says University of Northern Colorado anthropologist Michael Kimball, who organized a panel discussion on climate change and archaeology at the World Archaeology Congress in Dublin last year. "It definitely focuses the mind."
For countless communities, archaeology can be a source of local identity, pride, and even income. "It may be intangible, but when a community loses its connection to history it loses something pretty important," says Kimball.
Check out some of the endangered sites here:
Channel Islands Erosion: Rising seas now threaten to wipe out clues to how early humans made their way into the Americas just as researchers are beginning to look into the possibility of coastal migration.
Thawing Scythian Tombs: The glaciers that covered the slopes of the Altai are receding and even disappearing. And for the first time since their occupants were buried 3,000 years ago, the Scythian tombs are in danger of thawing out and rotting away.
Retreating Swiss Glaciers: On September 17, 2003, a hiker named Ursula Leuenberger was crossing an iced-over pass near the Schnidejoch glacier when something odd caught her eye--a leather quiver that had been left high in the Alps by a Neolithic hunter around 2800 B.C.
Greenland's Melting Sea Ice: Hardest hit have been sites associated with the Thule culture, people closely related to the Inuit of northern Canada who first migrated to Greenland around 2,000 years ago. "A meter per season will be tumbled down to the beach and washed away," Gronnow says. "It's not a slow process."
Peru's Rainstorms: Ironically, archaeologists have made the problem worse. "If we don't mess with the sites, water runs off without doing too much damage," says University of Maine archaeologist Dan Sandweiss. "But if you excavate, that's the end of them, basically."