Key Pages:


Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology



Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Brown University
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423

CyArk and Cultural Management--QRI for 13 April 2011

What issues do you think archaeological sites face with regard to the preservation of the ancient materials?

If you had your own archaeological site, what things would you do to make sure that your monuments and artefacts are preserved for future study by people hundreds of years after your time?

Posted at Apr 13/2011 11:13AM:
cgeggie: If you have any questions, please let me know!

Posted at Apr 13/2011 02:18PM:
kloughee: Underground conditions that seal off archaeological sites from oxygen tend to preserve these sites for the archaeologists that dig them up. However, once the site is exposed to the elements, the clock starts ticking again. Although the archaeologists have in a sense "saved" the site and all the information it holds by making it available to both scholars and the public, they have also doomed it to disintegrate once more, unless they can use modern scientific innovations to preserve it and protect it.

Still, archaeologists' and curators' efforts to "protect" these objects might have the consequence of making them less accessible to the public, depriving people of the opportunity to experience these archaeological sites and learn from them. For instance, some sections of Pompeii are inaccessible to the general public due to the wear and tear tourists have wreaked on the site. Even by breathing, tourists can release chemicals that degrade the architecture. Still, these efforts to protect the site can actually hurt the project by turning away public interest. In order to secure funding for archaeological endeavors, it is helpful to have the public interest on your side, especially if people are willing to pay to visit. Additionally, visiting the site can spark visitors' interest in history and archaeology generally, which can help those fields thrive. "Protecting" the archaeological site by making it inaccessible can actually hurt the site by decreasing interest. Pompeii in particular is a difficult case since whereas artifacts can be preserved in highly specialized conditions in museums, it is difficult to uproot a whole city and stuff it into a museum. Also, removing items in the city from their original context would diminish the reality of the visitor's experience.

If I had my own archaeological site, I would make sure I had the adequate technology to preserve the artifacts and monuments that I dug up, and I would preserve them in a museum that closely emulated the context in which the items were found. If I did not have the technology to preserve certain items, I would leave them buried for future generations who would be better equipped for such a task.

Posted at Apr 13/2011 03:06PM:
jdesrosier: The greatest issues facing archaeological sites are the effects of time and the impact of humans on the ancient materials. Natural effects that occur over the course of time, like exposure to air, dirt, rain and sun, are somewhat inevitable because artifacts are buried beneath the ground and even those in buildings, which generally no longer have roofs, experience the same deterioration.

The effects of non-archaeologist visitors, either before or during the archaeological process, also changes the makeup of the ancient materials we see today. For example, Pompeii was looted by scavengers for years after the eruption of 79. It was fashionable in the 1800s and 1900s to take tours and pick up the odd artifact as a souvenir, which changed the landscape of what we see now. Today, Pompeii is open to the public but is worn away by visitors' foot traffic, accidental touching, flash cameras and stray dogs.

The effects of the scientific processes also effect the archaeological site. Today there are much more precise, careful technological solutions to digs, but when archaeology first became a more prominent science, fewer precautions were taken with excavations. Though archaeologists seek to preserve what they dig, they too leave an impression on the ancient materials.

If I had my own archaeological site, I would first study successful instances of preservation, depending on the type of monument and/or artifact. If I had a monument that could be placed inside a larger structure, I would look to the Ara Pacis. Now contained in its own custom-built structure, the Ara Pacis is immune to the effects of the elements. The tourists allowed into the building are closely monitored so as not to ruin the integrity of the monument by touching it.

If I were preserving a larger area such as the Colosseum or Pompeii, the most successful way to preserve the space would be to limit into what sections of the area tourists would be allowed. This way the whole area is not constantly receiving foot traffic, and the off-periods allow for restoration and repair. Another approach to archaeology is to integrate the monument into public usage, such as the Theater of Marcellus. The size and scale of the theater can still be appreciated by the public, and it is well-maintained by the people who live in the apartments that now fill up where seating used to be.

Lastly if I were to preserve an artifact that could be contained in a glass display in a museum, that might be the best solution to make sure it does not suffer damages from natural elements or human encounters, and could be enjoyed by future generations.

Posted at Apr 13/2011 05:22PM:
milardi: The worst issues for archeological sites are that in order to explore them to there fullest potential you need to expose them to elements, which will cause them to degrade. An archeological site, such as Pompeii, is best preserved when it is buried. However, nothing can be learned from a site, which is underground.

Once a site has been exposed it faces two major threats to its preservation, weather and people. Exposure to wind, rain, the sun, etc. all degrade the artifacts being studied. Not much can be done to avoid this, since uncovered artifacts are generally open to the air. Artifacts found within buildings may be slightly protected (if the buildings have not fallen apart too much), but the buildings themselves are artifacts and these are exposed to the air. Once a site has been uncovered the effects of weather would be hard to avoid without building protective structures.

An additional, and more controllable threat to preservation is people. This includes both the archeologists who are working on the site and tourists that may want to view it. Archeologists would be more aware of how to handle artifacts and there are also less of them, so I would think they would not be too much of a threat. They would cause some degradation of artifacts, however, simply by working on and around them.

I think that tourists are probably the greatest threat to preservation. There are many of them, and simply walking through a site can cause artifacts to start to break down. Tourists may think that quickly touching an artifact, or snapping a photo may not damage the material, without realizing that if everyone thinks that way the effects can multiply and cause serious risks to the preservation of artifacts. In order to protect a site you may want to limit or prohibit tourists. This, however, causes similar problems as just leaving the site underground. Why have a site at all if no one is allowed to see it? Kloughee also brought up a good point by saying that by limiting tourism, public interest may be curtailed, and eventually this could negatively affect the site by decreasing funding. As well, if people pay to go see artifacts, then some of this money can be used to help preserve them, and this could counter the negative effects of tourism.

If I had my own archeological site I would make sure the most up to date techniques were being used to dig up the artifacts. Additionally, I would try to extensively photograph the process. This way if any materials were damaged during the excavation at least photos would remain that future generations could study.

My method of preservation would be dependent on the artifacts. For smaller things I would document what was there, so I could ensure that there was no looting of artifacts. If any smaller artifact was of particular interest I would move it to a museum and put it in a controlled environment. For artifacts that could not be removed from the site, I would try to limit the pedestrian traffic in the area. I would do this by roping of areas where pedestrians could walk, and having workers around to ensure that tourists do not touch the artifacts.

Perhaps to enhance the tourist’s experience, I would have an area on site that was either a replication or included artifacts that were of lesser importance (already documented and studied), where they could fully explore. Here they would be allowed to touch the artifacts, and hopefully as a result they would be less inclined to touch things on the site.

Posted at Apr 13/2011 06:29PM:
fstrauss: In many cases, excavating ruins can be very difficult because more often than not cities have been built over them. Rome is a great example of this. Centuries of building has covered the ancient sites left by the Romans and to gain access to them would mean clearing the space which is now occupied and possibly moving out the people who are currently settled there. It is therefore difficult to get permission to excavate and to prove that excavation is completely necessary.

The condition of most of the ancient sites is not great. It would be a difficult decision to decide whether to excavate and risk completely them forever or to leave them as they are, buried and preserved.

Once the sites have been unearthed they will be exposed to the elements, rain, wind, erosion. This is another factor to consider whether their safety and preservation will be guaranteed.

Once the site has been excavated, it is usually expected that it will be opened to the public. It is necessary to manage the people so that the site is not destroyed further. Angkor Watt, for example, is fully open to tourists. The public a re free to walk on whatever they want, touch the reliefs, etc. as a result the temple will probably be highly damaged in the near future.

If I had an archaeological site, I would first want to determine the condition of the ruins and make sure that unearthing them would not cause them further damage. If they were stable, I would make sure that I had the right technology and sufficient funds to see the project through. I would want to ensure that I had enough money not only to excavate the site but to also make sure that it was adequately preserved. If I found artwork, sculpture, murals etc. I would have them housed in a climate controlled facility or museum and If I was excavating an open space, I would try and construct a glass structure around it so that the site was protected but still in a way outdoors. Finally, I would restrict the flow of the public and make sure that their presence would not cause further damage.

Posted at Apr 13/2011 07:04PM:
There are various issues faced by the archeologists. This includes weather conditions, human interaction with the ancient site, protection of the artifacts, and the process of acquiring certain permits to fund the right technique to preserve these artifacts. Weather conditions make it really difficult to preserve these artifacts given that chemical and biological detrimental changes may occur due to rain, wind et al. Sometimes natural causes like the eruption of a volcano or an earthquake can also be added to this list. Also, it’s important to mention the effect of the human access to the archeological sites. The amount of visitors and especially the damage they can possible make by taking away pieces as souvenirs can be a big problem. For this reason, keeping the artifacts on the site would require extra protection and control which needs further funding to take place. In addition to these factors, funding and difficulty of bureaucratic processes to acquire certain permits for the preservation of these materials can make the process even more difficult. I would start with limiting the human access according to the conditions needed for the site. More importantly, I would try to take the required steps to protect the artifacts from weather conditions. This could mean moving the artifacts to a museum or another medium where they would not be affected by humidity. Also, I would categorize these pieces according to what kind of care and specific treatment they need and take the next steps to preserve them in better conditions.

Posted at Apr 13/2011 08:28PM:

Archaeologists face a wide range of issues when dealing with the preservation of ancient materials. First, archaeologists must deal with the types of "pseudo-archaeology" that have materialized. Many "pseudo-archaeologists" believe that ancient materials and objects should be classified from beyond a scientific perspective, seeing these ancient artifacts as manifestations of religious and phenomenological beliefs. Archaeologists must also consider the threat of looters on sights that are currently being excavated or remain unexcavated, in addition to those who oppose excavation of findings such as human remains because of ethical grounds. Finally, archaeologists must deal with the preservation of the findings themselves, making sure the materials are appropriately treated chemically in order to sustain their overall condition.

If I were personally in control of an archaeological dig, I would make sure I had an ethical system of cultural resources management, affirming that materials found would be placed in the proper hands and taken to universities or museums for further research. I would also attempt these objects from becoming owned privately, as more archaeological evidence made public provides a greater understanding of a particular period when the objects are rightfully displayed in museums of other appropriate settings.

Posted at Apr 13/2011 09:36PM:
bchu: Archaeological sites must balance preservation with modern development, study, tourism, and restoration. Leaving a site such as Pompeii buried may be the best way to preserve it, but that would not allow archaeologists and scholars to study the artifacts and explain why they should be preserved or allow people to view them. Larger sites, especially those near modern-day cities, must be defended from being built over as the global population expands and undeveloped land becomes more scarce.

Even after assuming that there is no threat from development, excavating a site leads to several challenges with regard to preservation of the ancient materials. The environment, including (acid) rain, wind, dust, and more severe natural disasters, will cause ancient materials to degrade. Other threats are human (tourists and looters) and non-human (animals, birds, insects, etc.).

Restoration is also a challenge that is related to preservation. The process of cleaning an artifact often significantly changes its appearance. Worse, certain cleaning solvents may cause the item to decay. Museum workers must also decide which parts of each artifact to restore to what they think the original appearance was. Regardless of whether the reconstructions are true to the original or not, they alter the item and change it to a different state than the one it was found in.

What I would do if I were in charge of a dig depends on how large the site is. If it is very large, I would purposefully leave certain plots of land unexcavated so that future archaeologists can investigate, because technology, archeological methodology, and the understanding of the past continues to improve. That way, future archaeologists and scholars will be able to work with untouched artifacts. If the site is smaller, I would carefully document the location and condition of where each item was found and take many photographs of them in their condition as they were found. I would make sure that there was good security so that no one could leave with any items or damage the site. If I were asked to open the site to the public, I would only allow them access to part of it. I would also strongly consider creating a replica of the site specifically for tourists or replace certain more fragile artifacts with replicas.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 12:23PM:
rmckeown: Archaeological sites face a plethora of issues with regard to the preservation of ancient materials. There are many elements that can adversely affect ancient materials once they are unearthed or excavated. A primary problem that ancient materials are exposed to is exposure to external elements. These elements could include, weather fluctuations, rapid changes in temperature and humidity, greater exposure to sunlight, and oxidation from pollutants and the surrounding atmosphere. Once an archaeological site is excavated, the ancient materials and structures begin to decay overtime due to these new elements unless they are correctly preserved. The excavating process itself can have a harmful affect on the ancient materials that are trying to be preserved, which is why excavations are slow, laborious processes that delicately recover ancient artifacts in order to minimize the any damage to the ancient materials. Another huge issue that affects the preservation of ancient materials is exposure to humans, namely tourism. Once archaeological sites are excavated, tourists flock to see everything that has been discovered. This mass exodus of people to the site can be extremely harmful to the ancient materials on the site, namely structures or materials that tourists walk on or through. For example, if an ancient building were excavated and there was a large floor mosaic inside the doorway, the mosaic would wear down and be damaged overtime due to the increase in foot traffic of tourists walking through. The same adverse affects could occur from the increase in flash photography by tourists as well as the increase in vandalism by certain terrible tourists. Thus, when excavating a site, it is of paramount importance that the site be protected from the external elements, the excavators themselves, and the groups of tourists who gather there.

If I had an archaeological site, I would make every attempt to protect the site from these threats. After carefully excavating the site, I would remove any prized, original ancient materials (that is if they can be removed) and place them in a nearby museum in order to limit the exposure of the materials to the external elements. Thus, by placing the ancient materials in a clean, sterile, and controlled environment, I would be able to ensure that they would last far longer than they would at the excavation site. For the structures that could not be removed, I would stabilize them as much as possible, and I would restrict the flow of tourists to certain areas of the site to maintain the structural integrity of the site for as long as possible. I would definitely also place docents or security guards throughout the site as well in order to prevent vandals from ruining the site with graffiti or other abominable acts. Though these attempts at preservation would be quite expensive, they would definitely be worth it if the ancient materials within could be preserved. I could also charge admission at the site so that tourists would have to pay to get in, thereby raising money to assist in my attempt at preserving the whole archaeological site.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 12:42PM:
hschreiber: Archaeological sites face not only the effects of the elements, such as rain or extreme heat, but also the effects produced by humans. Extreme weather conditions can alter the state of an artifact and perhaps even render it unrecognizable. In this case, the original state of the artifact can never be recovered unless somehow it was documented in another medium. Looters present another problem in the preservation of ancient materials as they actually steal significant artifacts and at the same time, can damage other artifacts that they leave behind. The ancient materials taken by looters oftentimes are never seen again. Lastly, the preservation of ancient materials is also affected by the way in which they are discovered. If the methods of discovering and excavating ancient materials are harsh and do not carefully handle each object with the proper care, the artifacts can be damaged and thus altered forever.

If I had my own archaeological site, I would make sure that my monuments and artifacts would be preserved properly by having a very detailed method of excavating the ancient objects that I find. My team would take the utmost care in excavating each site and I would document each step of the excavation process. By doing this, I would have reference notes for future excavations. Before allowing other people to see the objects I have discovered, I would research all of the objects and perform tests on the materials they are made of. After doing this, I would know the proper conditions in which the artifacts should be housed. Lastly, I would closely monitor and supervise my archaeological site so that looters would not destroy my team’s work.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 12:44PM:
lpress: There are many issues involved in the preservation of ancient materials from archaeological sites. For one, natural disturbances from rain, wind, sun, and other weather-related factors can be very destructive over time, especially when paired with ancient artifacts made from less durable materials than objects today. Human development also plays a large role in preservation. Air, land, and water pollution all affect these sites, as does tourism (and the pets, camera flashes, and unnecessary touching of objects that come with it). The building up and restoration of buildings on a site can in some ways be counterproductive as well, as the new materials mix with old and create a less authentic site. War and conflict must not be forgotten, as these issues have been the cause of many destroyed archaeological sites in the past.

One of the most prevalent problems with preservation of archaeological sites is that, in order to allow the site to be enjoyed by the public, it must be exposed to the both natural and man-made disturbances. While archaeological sites that are buried underground (such as Pompeii) remain well preserved, the interest and beauty is lost to the public. Even more, it can be difficult to excavate artifacts from an underground site. The digging and research done by archaeologists and other scientists may negatively impact the preservation of the land.

If I had my own archeological site, I would take many necessary precautions to make sure that my monuments and artifacts would be preserved. Firstly, I would encase smaller objects (such as statues and small artifacts) in glass boxes. This would allow for the objects be preserved while still being enjoyed by the viewers. I would also monitor the tourism on the site, and create restrictions such as no animals and no flash cameras. Tourists would be led on tours, as apposed to being able to wonder by themselves, in order to regulate the flow of people through the site.With the money brought in from the tours, I would devote much energy to upkeep and restoration of materials, and would pay close attention to keeping the site as close to its original appearance and atmosphere as possible.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 01:52PM:
jman: One problem that archeological sites face is weather. Especially areas like Pompeii, that consist of villas and homes that contain so many openings--such as the cubliculum and skylights, natural elements such as sunlight (that can fade color away) can damage artwork. Other "natural" factors are weather--there is nothing than can prevents rain from falling on ancient works.

At the same time, there are several human/man-made effects on sites. This can be smog, smoke, dirt that come from urban towns surrounding that damage the integrity. As well as cities that have come to build upon or build around. Such as the Coliseum--even though it is one of the greatest archeological sites--it sits in the middle of Rome and there are cars that drive by it. In a sense, they are no longer archeological sites, but part of the architecture of the city and can no longer be preserved.

Because they are spectacles, tours groups and visitors come often. With this, come several other issues. The public can wear away at the ground by walking, take photos with flash, or even attempt to take remnants away from sites as souvenoirs. Although not the same, it is very similar to people looting from the Coliseum, taking from the iron rods that held it up. It is a reason why the Coliseum is falling apart.

If it is difficult to decide how to preserve artifacts. By taking paintings, mosaics, or other artworks away from where we find them, we take the context out. It is completely different to learn about a context of a piece of artwork in a display from actually seeing it where it was. But leaving the artwork in its context leaves it to possible decay and damage by tourists and natural elements. I wonder if it is possible to place objects in sites with glass coverings so that they are still protected and in their environment?

I think in order to preserve archeological sites, it would require constant repair and conservation. They would unfortunately have to be closed from tourists from time to time, but would be a benefit in the long run.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 02:28PM:
caronson: Archeologists face a number of issues when excavating ancient materials. First off, these materials have been preserved by the stable underground environment in which they rest. So, as soon as archeologists dig them up, their lifespan greatly diminishes now that they are exposed to climate. For example, rain and sunlight can damage these materials, just as pollution from modern cities can also have a negative impact. On top of the preservation of artifacts, archeologists also face opposition due to ethical, cultural, and religious dilemmas concerning the right to excavate these ancient artifacts for example. Part of preserving an archeological site is allowing access to scholars, museums, and the general public, as to engrave these artifacts in memory and academia. While opening these sites to the public helps to preserve them, it also takes part in their destruction. Once public, they are not only within reach of looters but also of higher interest. The mere fact that there is someone interested in studying, collecting, or simply viewing these artifacts contributes to their illegal trade. If I had my own archeological site my first concern would be the preservation of the materials. I would ensure their preservation first by being very carful in the excavation process as not to damage anything. Secondly I would be sure to create a stable environment, which will continue to preserve the materials. And finally, I would ensure that each artifact was properly recorded for academic purposes. My second concern would be the proper treatment of the site. I think it is necessary to open these sites to the public to educate and possibly sway those who do not agree with the excavation. And finally I would be sure to have the site under heavy surveillance in order to keep looters out.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 03:07PM:
ylee: Archaeological sites are threatened both by the natural forces and man forces. Wearing out by time and weathering effects of rain and wind do destroy archaeological sites. Illegal excavation and damage to the remains by men can be another significant factor for the preservation of the ancient materials. Sometimes modern structures are built upon the archaeological sites or are planned to build upon them, threatening the preservation. With shifts of notion on the importance of the ancient materials, people have begun to associate the ancient ruins with the lucrative tourism opportunity at least to pride of a nation or a cultural heritage. With such shifts of the notions, people have tried to protect the ruins from further damage, but most times such attempts are not carried out well due to lack of sufficient funds. For example, a city of Kyoungju in South Korea is Korean version of the city of Rome, abundant of ancient historical relics. Many of ancient tombs are by the road and although everybody knows that the tombs would be containing more of the ancient relics with high possibility, and if we just neglect them as we do now without any care, the monumental relics would be ruined at best or excavated illegally. Nevertheless, there has been no enough fund to start legitimate excavation project or at least protect them from illegal excavators.

If I had my own archaeological sites, I would make sure to preserve the context in which the ancient materials were found. I do not want to make an arrogant mistake of deciding what the materials were and how they were used with the knowledge I have right now. I believe that the study of archaeology is always an ongoing process, and if I preserve the context as much as possible, future scholars would add on to what I have found, and our knowledge of the past would grow easier than if I take away certain parts from the site as I believe that certain parts have substantial importance over others and need special protection or so on.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 03:19PM:
kgroszyk: Archeologists face a number of issues regarding the excavation and preservation of ancient materials. Firstly, an archeologist must consider a safe way to uncover an item without compromising its structural integrity. As evidenced by Pompeii and the Domus Aurea, many sites and relics are carefully preserved by remaining undisturbed and underground for many years. When they are removed from underground, however, they must become unsupported as was the case of some areas of the Domus Auerea that subsequently collapsed.

After an ancient material is uncovered, the main conflict an archeologist faces is providing the public with the opportunity to view the ancient material versus preserving the ancient material. When an ancient material is put on display, it becomes exposed to both natural elements and human contact. An archeologist must also consider the effects of weather especially sunlight – which can compromise color – and rain – which can erode materials, and other natural elements, such as dirt. Deterioration due to exposure to the natural elements is inevitable and thus processes must be undertaken to lessen and prevent their damaging effects. Another factor an archeologist must consider is the effect of human contact with the ancient materials. When tourists visit sites, they often take pictures with flash, touch the site, and perhaps even try to take away materials as souvenirs. All of these actions can lead to deterioration of both color and structural integrity.

If I had my own archaeological site, I would take every precaution to ensure that my monument and artifacts are preserved for future study by people hundreds of years from now. I would make sure that my most fragile and delicate items, such as painting and small items, were placed in secure displays; this would both prevent untrained people from incorrectly handling them and allow the public to view them. I would also make sure that tourists visiting the site were led by tours, so that tour guides could act as surveillance to prevent tourists from touching the ancient materials and taking flash photography. I would also regularly clean, repair, and restore my materials to prevent the buildup of dirt and ensure the upkeep of the materials.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 03:20PM:

When dealing with the complicated issue of preservation of ancient materials from archaeological sites, there are many issues that would arise. One difficult issue is the conflict between the desire to educate the public and publicize your findings, while at the same time protecting the artifacts and keeping them safe. It is possible that the more famous or popular one’s findings become, the more desirable they may also become to looters and thieves as well as tourists. While educating others about such impressive findings can be helpful to an archaeologist’s cause, it must be done appropriately so as not to exploit the artifacts or put them at risk. Another issue that could arise is the matter of intervening governments or other groups impeding on progress of a dig site by protest or by mandating laws. This could harm the progress of an archaeological site if the government orders a dig to cease or a political or social group objects and demands a halt. There is also the issue of dealing with the uncontrollable elements of nature. For instance, the archaeological sites in Pompeii have been harmed, making excavation of the site more difficult to carry out.

If I had my own archeological site, I would make sure to the best of my ability that my monuments and artifacts are preserved for future generations to study. I would do this by employing protective cases around objects that would allow for such a process. I would also be sure to document every step of the excavation so that should future generations need to return to the original digging sites, they may easily locate the area. I would do this with keeping good notes and taking pictures and marking locations on maps. Another way to preserve the findings of my site would be to preserve the actual sites where the artifacts were found with government permits entitling me to the rights of the land so that no future building can occur on the locations. Hopefully, with these measures, the findings of my archeological site can be protected and the upkeep of the site can be maintained.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 05:15PM:
There are many issues facing the preservation of archaeological sites and the ancient materials there. There is a fine line between the desires to excavate sites for knowledge, and leaving them untouched for later generations to excavate with more advanced techniques. The technologies used even just twenty years ago were more invasive, less precise and destructive than the current ones. Also, this brings up the issue of rescue archaeology because as in Ancient cities like Rome and Antioch, the ancient sites are buried away and often can be disturbed by modern constructions. The other issue is that the best way to preserve sites like Pompeii would be to completely close them. However, it is the money made at this site, and others, which pay for research, excavation and preservation. Also, giving the public access to sites like Pompeii is an opportunity to expose them to the value of ancient sites and their preservation. However, the visitors throughout history to the site are the most destructive. From the scavenger treasure hunters of the Victorian era to the modern visitors who tread and wear down stones, and poke at the architecture, these people destroy the site for later generations. If I had my own site I would do very careful documentation of the entire site and all of the items there. I would also come up with a way to leave the site and artifacts in situ. I would want to construct some sort of pathway and facilities that do not disturb the site. I think it’s important to keep artifacts and architecture in their context when possible because there is no other way to experience the site with in the context of its location if pieces are removed. Also, I would try to find money to protect the site at nighttime with guards. However, my first choice would be to not dig up the site, but to preserve the location and do only non-invasive excavation techniques.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 05:18PM:
cteitz: I think one of the largest problem facing archeological sites that the burial of ancient structures creates as a protective barrier around them, and when it is removed, the process of disintegration begins immediately. Once exposed, the elements and human impact on the site combine to destroy what remains of structure and the more delicate decorate pieces, which makes preservation challenging. The natural world of sunlight, rain, oxygen, and other physical elements can degrade the material, in some cases, such as the Vindolanda tablets, faster than it is possible to record. Also challenging to the preservation of ancient materials is the human traffic of tourists who essentially love the sites to death. The visitors who think that they’re the only one breaking off a small chunk of marble or touching the wall paintings are among thousands who think the same thing, and the combination can leave the monument with nothing remaining. Another huge problem for the preservation of ancient materials is the concept of ownership in relationship to them. Once excavated, a site requires continuous care, maintenance, staffing, and funding. Often the archeologists on the project can start the process, but once their grant runs out and their excavation is complete, the preservation of a site is left to another body, either the government of the country or a local heritage trust. These groups may not be able to afford the upkeep of an area, and either open it without proper protections in place or close it entirely and ignore the natural process of degradation destroying the site.

If I had both my own archeological site and unlimited funding, I would try to keep the site protected as it was being excavated and once the fieldwork was complete with a structure covering the exposed area. This would provide at the very least a shelter from the elements and, in an ideal world, climate control to best preserve the structures and their delicate artwork. I would take care to note the areas of restoration or necessary structural adaptation I added to the site, and I would be careful to work with materials that allowed me to reverse my restoration processes. Once the site was established, I would create a system of rotation for visitation, to spread the tourist impact across a variety of areas, and if necessary, limit access entirely. Realistically, however, many of these are expensive propositions and highly unlikely to be implemented in a site. If I found a site, excavated it, but was unable to conserve it properly and commit to a structure that would allow the site to be useful and well preserved for hundreds of years, I would opt to rebury it rather than leaving it abandoned and disintegrating to the point that no once can study from it in the future.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 05:23PM:
mstokely: Considering their age and damages that have already occurred to existing archaeological sites, trying to preserve these sites is a relatively daunting task. While I agree with Kloughee that when archaeologists expose these sites they allow for natural processes to destroy these sites more quickly, the role archaeologist play in preserving these sites is very important. When important historic sites go undetected or and unexplored, they are subject to natural causes that still cause them to deteriorate on their own. This can be seen with the ruins in Rome today. After hundred of years or being covered by later generations of Romans, these famous sites were slowly being destroyed, but now that they are exposed and cared for, the hope is that this process will be tempered a least a little bit.

Kloughee also mentions another threat to archaeological sites, the human presence. Kloughee mostly focuses on the effect of the tourist on the site, but even the presence of the archeologist can have a devastating effect on a site. While human contact is a concern, if there isn’t any exploration and explanation of these sites, on some level they become useless, rendering it pointless to worry about whether or not they are preserved anyways. At the same time, human contact should be limited to the site. Kloughee argues that restricting the site from the tourist may also cause there to be less interest in the site, again rendering the site as not important. While I can see how this may make the site inaccessible, I do not think it would cause there to be less interest in the site. In fact, for a site like Stonehenge, the limited access to the site produce more interest in the site on some level.

Considering these challenges that are faced when dealing with an archaeological site, I’m not entirely positive how I would go about preserving these sites. For me, the most important thing about these sites is the ability we have to learn about our heritage. My understanding or connection to this heritage is not based in the physicality of the object, but the knowledge stores. Once these objects have been analyzed and documented, how important is their physical existence. For an object like the Coliseum, the physical building that remains does not do the buildings history justice. What was once a glorious building with great works or sculpture is now reduce to a eroding skeleton. That is not to say that I do not care whether or not the Coliseum gets torn down (in fact, I think its preservation is very important). My personal opinion is that preservation should come second to analysis. So if I were to be in charge of my own site, my focus would be on getting the best understanding of the site, and I would determine the level of preservation necessary to ensure that the best understanding would be obtain.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 06:58PM:
nvitrano: The biggest threat to ancient materials today is the difference between the worlds in which they created and the world we’ve created to which they are excavated. While underground and protected from the elements and pollution of today’s world, ancient materials can be preserved and sustained. Once they are unearthed they are immediately under attack by the wears and tears of everyday life. Exposure to the sun, acid rain, oxidation, and a plethora of other environment threats start to eat away the stories these ancient artifacts hold.

The other problem that ancient artifact preservation faces is the affect that the archeologists themselves have on them. While excavating, archeologists could break fragile materials or even disfigure art pieces. The processes involved in dating these artifacts, although much more precise today than in earlier years, forces archeologists to remove and test particles from the artifact, which poses its own set of threats towards the preservation process.

If I were in charge of preserving the artifacts of my own personal archeological site, I would remove them from the harsh elements and human threats and keep the in tightly controlled museum displays. The cases in which these monuments and artifacts would be stored will create an environment that will not eat away at the stories held in these ancient items. And by placing them in a museum future generations will always have access to them without them being in danger of being lost forever.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 08:18PM:
jpardoe: When archeological sites are buried under many feet of dirt and rock they are safe from the corrosive and potential dangerous elements such as wind, rain, and humans. Once these sites are excavated and brought back to the surface of the earth they are immediately at danger from the elements that will degrade them. Archeological sites face many challenges because of these facts. Pompeii is a good example of trying to preserve archeological sites. One of the best ways to preserve the sites is to keep the exposure from humans to as little as possible. The constant wear of tourists coming and going has a major impact on these sites. There is not much you can do from protecting the sites from the natural elements like wind and rain. If I were to try and do the best job possible preserving my archeological site I would keep the access to tourists to a minimum. I would also take the most important artifacts and move them to museums and other indoor spaces that allow them to be safe from the elements and be monitored better. As far as the sites that are allowed to be seen by the public I would have only guided tours available to keep the touching and other wear to a minimum. I would want as many people as possible that are interested in the various archeological sites to be able to see them and enjoy them. Pompeii is a good example of how a majority of the sites are closed to the public. This greatly increases the preservation of the sites. A site could also routinely change which sites are available at different times of the year.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 08:26PM:
otraynor: As we saw in Pompeii, once ancient materials have been uncovered, the clock that had been stalled for millennia starts up once again. One of the largest threats to archeological sites is the natural decay of the materials themselves when re-exposed to the elements. In Pompeii these processes had been halted by the pyroclastic flow that buried the entire city. Many ancient materials are similarly buried and have survived better because of it.

Another hurdle many archaeologists encounter is the location of the dig relative to modern society. In Rome modern structures are often located directly on top of ancient monuments or buildings. In some cases, such as the Forum of Augustus, archaeologists are only able to dig out a portion of the structure and are forced to leave the rest buried underneath more modern additions.

If I had my own archaeological site, I would be sure to investigate what was below me before starting to dig. Ideally, I would use a technology like sonar to get a general idea of what was resting below. Using those images as a guide, I would be able to more safely dig down and avoid ruining artifacts accidentally. When something was actually uncovered, I would advise that no one touch it, because the oils on our skin may damage the material. Once I had identified that it was safe to handle, I would fully excavate the artifact. After the excavation, the safest place for an artifact would be a museum, because they have professionals trained to handle and preserve ancient materials.

One way to make sure that an archaeological site stays protected is to drum up popular interest. If people want to visit the site, then you must publicize your findings and argue for their importance to society. It may not be the smartest idea to turn the site itself into an attraction, because that could jeopardize ongoing and future excavations. Instead, I would advertise the findings in a museum, allowing for the materials, and the site, to be properly preserved.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 08:31PM:
mmcvicke: Many issues arise when is comes to preserving archeological sites containing ancient materials. It is necessary to uncover whatever possible in order to learn more about the ancient cultures being studied, but once the objects and structures are unearthed they begin to degrade. Rain, oxidation, and human traffic can all have negative effects on an ancient site. Objects made from metals are less prone to this kind of degradation, but statues and frescos are not so fortunate. Frescos are easily faded by the effects of exposure to rain and sun, and marble statues are very prone to breaks. The reason Pompeii is considered one of the most important sites when studying the Roman culture is because of the tragic volcanic eruption that covered the city, preserving everything. The same thing that destroyed the city also helped to preserve it.

If I had my own archeological site with unlimited resources I would build a safe house/museum to shelter the artifacts from the environmental factors that lead to its degradation. It is important to keep structures like public buildings and homes in their original locations in order to preserve the living environment of the culture being studied, so they will be uncovered and left where they are. Fragile artifacts like frescos and statues would be removed from their original location and replaced with copies. This will preserve the original setting for those who are viewing a site, such as archeologists or tourists, while also preserving the original pieces of art for view and study by generations to come.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 08:32PM:
mmcvicke: Many issues arise when is comes to preserving archeological sites containing ancient materials. It is necessary to uncover whatever possible in order to learn more about the ancient cultures being studied, but once the objects and structures are unearthed they begin to degrade. Rain, oxidation, and human traffic can all have negative effects on an ancient site. Objects made from metals are less prone to this kind of degradation, but statues and frescos are not so fortunate. Frescos are easily faded by the effects of exposure to rain and sun, and marble statues are very prone to breaks. The reason Pompeii is considered one of the most important sites when studying the Roman culture is because of the tragic volcanic eruption that covered the city, preserving everything. The same thing that destroyed the city also helped to preserve it.

If I had my own archeological site with unlimited resources I would build a safe house/museum to shelter the artifacts from the environmental factors that lead to its degradation. It is important to keep structures like public buildings and homes in their original locations in order to preserve the living environment of the culture being studied, so they will be uncovered and left where they are. Fragile artifacts like frescos and statues would be removed from their original location and replaced with copies. This will preserve the original setting for those who are viewing a site, such as archeologists or tourists, while also preserving the original pieces of art for view and study by generations to come.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 08:35PM:

Archeological sites face many issues once they are unearthed. When they are underground they are preserved from the elements. However our culture says that once a civilization is dug up, it is preserved but in reality the ruins are exposed to new elements that degrade the archeological site further such as rain, wind, and snow etc.. Tourism will always be attracted to archeological ruins, unfortunately tourists further help in the degradation of these sites. Tourism is the biggest threat to ruins. It is hard to believe that tourists have such an adverse effect on the sites but when you think about how old some of these ruins are it simply amazing that they still exist. So any small change to their environment such as brining hundreds of thousands of people through the ruin will hurt the ruin. Sites like Pompeii are degrading rapidly now because they are once again exposed to the elements and are also exposed to tourism.

Tourism helps pay for the up keep of ruins. Many experts say that the best way to ensure the longevity of a ruin is to keep it underground. This is entirely possible to do but if a ruin is underground then who is going to come and see it. My argument is that entire city ruins do not have to unearthed in order for tourists to get the chance to experience the former city and its culture.

Instead more attention should be paid to the preservation and restoration to ruins that have already been excavated. Recent archeological digs in Egypt have not been digs but have in fact been surveys through the use of X-rays. I believe that the rest of Pompeii should be X-ray surveyed so that we can learn what is underneath the ground. If I had an archeological site I would survey it from above ground first. Then if I found anything out of the ordinary through this survey I would start digging there. In doing so I would reduce the overall excavation at first but if your going to excavate a site, do it right. Meaning that ruins should structurally sound before the next section is excavated. Tourists could also visit the site, the X-ray survey would be turned into an interactive map that tourists could play with in an onsite museum. Not unearthing the entire city would undoubtedly make tourists come back which would be good in terms of revenue to help fund excavations. So in closing, X-ray survey first and then excavate unique parts of the ruin, stabilize and preserve as best as possible then go on to the next unique part of a ruin.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 08:39PM:
kdesimone: A main issue with excavating ancient materials is that as soon as you dig them up, you are subjecting them to the elements, whereas before they were being preserved in the isolated environment under the ground. Removing them from this environment accelerates the decay of the materials. However, the point of excavating these objects is to study them and learn something about the historical and cultural context of the eras during which they were created, so risking the perfect preservation of the object is necessary and unavoidable. Additionally, it’s possible that the works themselves were already damaged before they were discarded in ancient times, which can also tell us something today about the context of the time. For example, damaged portraits of former emperors have been found at the bottoms of rivers; though this is not the ideal environment for the preservation of the material, it tells us about how the Romans responded to the “damnatio memoriae” and the significance they gave to their public art.

Another issue archaeological sites face is what to do with the objects they have excavated. Displaying them to the public in museums is a worthy idea, but displaying them in a way that keeps them as well-preserved as possible with little exposure to light or air makes it difficult for viewers to get close to and fully appreciate the work, or place it in an identifiable context. For this reason, many museums only display selected elements of their collections for limited periods of time, and keep them under ideal preservation conditions the rest of the time. Other sites have decided that they are putting too much at stake by putting the works on view to the public or allowing tourists to get a first hand view at the site, so they create realistic replicas that allow viewers to see the works in their original context without risking damage to the most valuable finds. For example, the Lascaux cave paintings in France were decaying at an accelerated rate due to the greatly increased exposure to air and contaminants when tourists were allowed into the caves, so another site was set up in a similar environment with a replica of the paintings. Likewise, the statues of the four horses on St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice are modern replicas, but for the average viewer, this is sufficient to get a sense of the works in the original spot for which they were created.

If I were in charge of an archaeological excavation I would want the works I found to be well preserved, certainly, but I would also want the general public to be able to see them and appreciate them, not just a select group of scholars and experts. If possible I would want the artifacts to be returned to the most appropriate group of people, for example the modern-day descendents of the original owners, so that they could preserve their history in the most accurate context. I think it’s more important that the objects are preserved well, so that in the long term they still exist for future study and examination, but it’s important to not completely remove them forever from the public eye.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 09:34PM:
Marco Ziff: The preservation of archeological remains is one of the most difficult goals of an archaeologist to accomplish. He faces a multitude of issues when first discovering ancient materials. The first problem encountered is whether or not the artifacts or buildings should even be unearthed in the first place. Many instances, the moment the ancient structures are exposed to the air and are free standing for the first time in thousands of years, they crumble. What use is uncovering a building for the public to see if it turns to a heap of rubble within a short period of time? Another major issue is how to restore, preserve, and display the artifacts that are already out in the open. Restoring ancient objects is an extremely delicate task and can prove very harmful to the artifact if done incorrectly. An example would be the ancient Greek marble statues which originally were painted, but were completely whitewashed with the thought that their original state was just the white, clean stone itself. Yet another decision for the archaeologist is whether to remove the objects from their original provenance indoors into a museum so that they may be kept in better condition. In this manner, the artifacts are taken out of their context in their own interest, but the original site is being pillaged in the process. We learn most from architecture in its context, not behind glass containers in a museum. The preservation of ancient artifacts without detracting from the context of the site as a whole should be the archaeologist’s paramount aim.

If I had an archeological site under my supervision, I would first ascertain whether I could uncover the artifacts and buildings without harming them. I would have to make sure that the technology at my disposal was more than adequate to preserve the objects at hand. I would build a state of the art museum very near to the site wherein I would house the fragile items for display. I would produce reproductions of these items and have them placed in their found locations in order to reproduce as much as possible the ancient site. My main goal would be not only to preserve the artifacts but also to make sure that the history and context of the site be readable and accessible to the masses which will walk through it in the future.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 09:35PM:
cparker: Threats to archeological sights can be broken into two areas. The first are natural. Everyday weather events such as rain, wind, heat, and fluctuations in humidity can, over many years, do serious damage to ancient materials. Severe weather such as hurricanes, earthquakes, flash floods, or volcano eruptions can completely destroy a sight forever. Most of the time it is easy to protect ancient materials completely from these forces if the artifact can be preserved in an enclosure. Sights such as Pompeii or other larger materials must be maintained properly in order to elongate its life, however sometimes degradation by these forces is unavoidable. Pompeii is a special case in that natural preservation by volcanic soil still protects parts of the sight. These areas will be protected from natural events until archeologists decide to uncover them. This however is a unique situation. The second type of threat is unnatural mostly involving humans. The first issue is looting. Most modern archeological sights have been looted of material at least one point in their existence. The removing of ancient material however is still something that archeologists need to protect against. Another threat is vandalism. Finally the modern citizen produces waste materials that harm artifacts. The coliseum has faced great threats simply from the fossil fuels burnt by cars navigating around what now is a massive traffic circle. These gasses among our manipulation of terrain can put archeological sights at great risk. If I were the owner of an archeological sight I would attempt to protect against both risks natural and unnatural. I would do my best to provide security against looting and vandalism. I would attempt to cover from the elements any objects small enough, those to large I would maintain at regular intervals. I would also attempt to excite the public about the sight. If people enjoy the sight and desire its existence it will have a better chance of survival. It may receive donations and most importantly people will be less inclined to vandalize or steal from it.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 09:36PM:
ereese: Archaeological sites, despite their potentially remarkable wealth of art and lifestyle objects, are often not approached by the most talented of archaeologists. Although the damage might not be quantifiable, human error (see: Heinrich Schliemann) could possibly be the most devastating cause of lost objects from the historical record. Humans have a unique way of approaching the past; whether it is the actual excavators who are unscientific method, or humans hundreds of years ago who found a site to be unworthy of caution or preservation, it is no secret that this planet is used in a recyclable manner by those of us who inhabit the top level of the food chain. Ancient materials are not only difficult to preserve because of their physical and chemical nature (ex. degradation of materials over time) but also because certain objects carry with them different constructs of importance than do others. It is difficult to ascertain and enforce a certain standard of preservation insofar as what objects are “worth” keeping, etc., across the thousands of archaeological sites that exist today. Throughout history, some objects were in fact deemed to be so UNworth keeping that they were destroyed due to a conflict of past and present ideology; consider the phenomenon of iconoclasm in the Middle Ages. Not only this, but the planet itself has taken a toll on these sites and the remains therein. As the city of Providence finds itself unable to maintain smooth pavement conditions on its roads after a day of inclement weather, it is easy to imagine the natural processes incurred on sites that are thousands of years old.

All this in mind, I would seek to make my current apartment inaccessible to all other human life as well as untouchable by the elements. Perhaps the only surefire way to do this would be to cryo-freeze the entire building à la Austin Powers, but this is not a scientific technique in which I am well-versed. More realistically, I would contact a historical society that has as its main goal preservation of homes and buildings.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 09:48PM:
emilygilbert: Archaeological sites face many issues with regards to the preservation of ancient materials. While the excavators are simply trying to preserve the artifacts and structures, they might inadvertently be causing harm. Digging out buildings exposes them to the elements. In Pompeii, for example, many wall paintings were damaged because they were exposed to things like rain and sun, but would have remained intact had architects not excavated them.

Tourists also pose a threat to ancient treasures. By walking around sites, they could damage artifacts by touching them or accidentally stepping on buried objects. Artifacts’ surroundings also pose a threat to their well-being. Much of ancient Rome is buried beneath the modern-day city. Cars, pollution, and modern construction all affect the ruins buried beneath the city, and when these ruins are excavated, they are exposed to the city and quickly deteriorate.

Items like the wall paintings in Rome and the Terracotta Warriors in China both demonstrate the affects the environment can have an art pieces once they are excavated. Both were once beautifully painted and decorated, and were then buried beneath the earth where they were preserved for thousands of years. However, once these items were excavated and exposed to the elements, the paint quickly faded, stripping the pieces of their original beauty.

Modern-day archaeologists have many solutions as to how to preserve artifacts for future studies. Some air on the side of caution; in China, the archaeologists have decided to leave some of the terracotta statues buried in order to preserve the paint. Once technology advances enough, they will uncover them, but until they are able to preserve the statues effectively, the archaeologists will leave them in the ground. In Pompeii, archaeologists have began making plaster molds of the hallowed out spaces were organic material once was. This allows future generations to study the people and animals buried in Pompeii even though the actual bodies no longer remain.

If I had my own archaeological site, I would employ some of the techniques listed above. I would try to limit tourist access so that nothing could be disturbed during the excavation, then try to display the objects in a museum as close to the original arrangement as possible.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 10:07PM:
chuang: I think the biggest issues are deterioration by natural elements such as air, wind water, etc. over time and tourism. Archaeological sites are constantly deteriorating, even when they're still undiscovered. When uncovered, the increase in oxygen and sunlight will speed up the deteriorating process. It is also easier for the ancient materials to break down through biological contact - insects may carry harmful residues onto the archaeological site, and moss and other vegetation can start growing in the site if it is not taken care of. Humans are another grave cause of deterioration of ancient materials. Tourists like to touch artifacts and take (flash) photographs of the archaeological sites. Their presence alone speeds up the deterioration process by tenfold. However, it is unfair to completely bar tourists from visiting the sites or viewing the artifacts in museums because archaeological discoveries are meant to be shared. By the time I would have my own archaeological site, technology would have been developed to protect and significantly slow down the deterioration process. Although there is current technology to do this, technology in the future will be more effective. Also, some monuments from the archeological site may be replicated and rearranged at a new site to achieve the same authentic experience without the risk of deterioration.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 10:17PM:
ARodriguez: Archeological sites must deal with issues concerning preservation of ancient materials such as looting, appropriation, and climate change. Many archeological digs are found in remote areas away from civilization. The fact that many sites are far away from populated areas makes it very easy for looters to rob artifacts during late hours at night when there is no supervision. Although some sites have guards who protect the site when there are no archeologists working there, most sites do not have the budget to afford security at night. Another significant issue is appropriation since foreign archeologists generally don’t have the right to keep the artifacts they find in the site. For example, if an American archeologist discovers an ancient marble sarcophagus in Turkish territory, he will need to request legal permission to appropriate the artifact and sell it to an American museum. This is an issue of preservation since many countries do not have museums that provide the sufficient resources to properly preserve an important ancient artifact. Climate change is probably the most variant factor in the preservation of ancient materials. Archeologists must make sure to protect the artifacts in their digs, especially since they are exposed to the open air. For example, archeological sites in deserts must be well protected since the weather changes drastically from extreme hot temperatures during the day and cold temperatures at night.

If I had my own archeological site I would make sure that enough funds are acquired to have guards watch over the area while there is nobody working there. I would also include signs that inform the visitors of the site’s working process so they will have caution when approaching the site. In addition, the visitors must have special permission to access the area. I would have the appropriate tools needed to dig and clean artifacts without harming them and would assign a supervisor for various sections in the site. My archeological site would be divided into separate sections each with an assigned researcher and archeologist.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 10:19PM:

Archaeological sites face innumerable issues regarding the preservation of ancient materials. Sites such as Pompeii offer a unique glimpse of the past and provide extremely valuable insights into the cultural, social, and political facets of life during the period. However, considerable problems pose a threat to the condition and existence of archaeological sites worldwide. From tourism to environmental deterioration, there is an increasing risk that the artifacts we readily enjoy today might not exist in the future. The impact of foot traffic severely harms ancient materials and invites the possibility of damaging objects. Tour groups are usually large and masses of individuals eagerly crowd archaeological sites without truly considering the potential harm they might inflict. A flash of their camera or brush of their bag could critically damage ruinous artifacts. However, unlike the consequences of tourism—natural effects on ancient materials are harder to control. Wind, erosion, precipitation, and the sun substantially degrade components of artifacts and ruinous architecture overtime. Because the damage is usually gradual, these problems are often detected too late. The beauty of visiting an archeological site is envisioning the entire area as it was thousands of years ago—from placement of objects to the general fabric of an ancient city. Tourists desire these sites because they shed light on the culture of the past and the people who inhabited these ruins. If I had my own archaeological site I would take a number of precautions at every stage of excavation and preservation to ensure, as best as I could, that the ancient materials would be protected from humans and the effects of the environment. I would invest in the latest technology for excavation to verify the safety of the ruins as the objects are extremely vulnerable during these processes. Additionally, I would document each and every artifact so that if something gets damaged or goes missing, there will be a pictorial and written record of the unique object. To control tourists I would consider areas that are particularly at risk, and rope them off accordingly. These sections of the site will still be visible, but only at a distance to preserve their condition. Each stage must be meticulously planned and adhered to—this would be one of my top concerns and priorities upon excavating the site and preserving the unique objects we are privileged to have access to.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 10:43PM:
asung: Archaeologists face many difficulties in deciding on which action to take regarding the management of ancient and valuable artifacts that have been discovered, due to their shaky state of existence. For example, in Pompeii the whole town has been covered in ash and therefore preserved for centuries; yet, as soon as buildings are excavated and revealed to the world once more, the clock starts ticking again, and eventually these uncovered gems will deteriorate, falling prey to the elements of time and nature once more. However, if excavators decide to let the remains stay buried under the ash, not only will no one be able to study and enjoy them, but this also does not ensure that the materials will endure intact since they are still being left to be subjected to the wills of nature, merely covered by a thin shell of protection. Archaeologists also must decide, once the objects are excavated, whether to leave them in the same site or move them to a museum setting. Generally the circumstances are more complex in that sometimes the items are too large to be moved manually and must be carefully dismantled and then set back up. Sometimes their structure is so intertwined with the landscape surrounding it that it cannot even be removed.

If I were an archaeologist, I would most likely leave buildings in their original location because a lot of the cultural and artistic significance is drawn from the context from which the architecture comes. Although this would subject the art to potential atrophy, I feel as though one of the most important aspects of this kind of architecture is being able to walk through it and experience it appropriately. Following this, I would advocate the excavation of Pompeii despite exposing it to the elements because I believe the whole purpose of art is to view it; if it remains hidden underneath the ash, it is not serving anyone’s purpose, and archaeologists might as well uncover the inevitably rich cultural fodder. However, I would not allow the public to damage the houses more than necessary, preventing them from climbing on or touching the walls with increased security or at least roped off areas.

On the other hand, artifacts within the building’s walls can be saved by relocating them to museum settings where they would be in controlled environments. Unlike buildings, the surrounding landscape is not as crucial for these items, and they would still be able to be appreciated by the public. But for all the items, artifacts and houses alike, I would photograph them comprehensively to ensure that people hundreds of years from my time would be able to view them. With improved, or perhaps currently obscure, technology, I would be able to recreate a digital version of it online that is interactive and extremely detailed, thus providing everyone, not just museum-goers or world travelers, the ability to look at the masterpieces of the ancient world.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 10:59PM:

There are many ethical and technical issues regarding the excavation of ancient sites and artifacts. First, there is the question of whether or not to excavate a site in the first place. When a building or artifact is uncovered it is exposed to wind, rain, and other natural elements that degrade the surfaces and materials. The chemical reactions that take place in the process of exposure are extremely complex. In order to preserve a small object, the object needs to be in the hands of a diligent and well-educated conservator. Thus, the process of excavation must also include the process of preservation and conservation. Further, it is important to note that, once a building has been exposed, it is also subject to human traffic, which can ultimately greatly degrade the surfaces of the site. Therefore, the choice to excavate a site is also the choice to expose the site to human traffic that is potentially very destructive. The process of excavation therefore must also include strict regulation of tourism.

The process of excavation also becomes complex in terms of the overlaying plans of modern and ancient cities. On the one hand, it is tricky to demolish sections of the modern city in order to uncover parts of the ancient city. Too, in Rome, there are strict regulations about where builders can raise new buildings so as to avoid disturbing ancient sites below the city. They have also avoided building a subway system in Rome for the same reasons.

The process of excavation can also be quite dangerous. In the case of Herculanum, for example, archaeologists have very carefully uncovered only small fractions of the site because they are avoiding exposure to the gasses that have preserved Herculanum below ground.

Lastly, there are issues to consider in terms of the distribution and allocation of goods that have been excavated. Back in the 1800s, people excavated goods as if they were on treasure hunts, looking for the most expensive goods. But, today, people are more aware of the complex ethical issues surrounding the sharing and distribution of goods. To me, this is the most important aspect of excavation, because it is important to consider who gets access to the educational quality of an item that has been uncovered. The controversy surrounding the Elgin Marbles, for example, is an important issue to settle in terms of what belongs to who.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 10:59PM:

I think that there are many problems intrinsic in archaeological excavation. Firstly, a general fact of life is that things change over time. So, a site that is due to be excavated has been affected by a plethora of natural causes as well as those done by man. Artifacts are subject to a whole slew of natural things that can lead to their degradation such as air, rain, dirt, and sunlight. Not only does the atmosphere surrounding them automatically change potential artifacts, but they are also changed by the way human kind treats them. Pompeii, one of the most known ancient cities, was frequented by world travelers in the late 19th and early 20th century. These visitors added to the deterioration of the site in that they would poke and prod the site, changing certain artifacts. What is even worse than the mere presence of non-experts on archaeological sites is the practice of visitors, or even looters, taking artifacts for their own enjoyment or financial benefit. Archaeologists must be extremely careful, as well, while trying to excavate sites in leaving ancient materials unharmed and unchanged. If they are too aggressive in their search for answers, they too, can alter the outcomes of scientific testing concerning dates and materials. If I had my own archaeological site, I would try to acquire the most technologically advanced tools as to not alter the state of the artifacts more than they have already been changed. I would employ a curious team of archaeologists who would be less inclined to loot the site for their own benefit because of their sheer love of excavation. Being that I would expect to find artifacts of different size and importance, I would send the smaller and probably more mundane objects to different museums; as to let other experts preserve their quality. As for the larger and less mobile objects or monuments, I would plan obvious obstacles such as ropes or Plexiglas walls (if I had the funds for this), surrounding them, so there would be no confusion as to how close viewers could observe them. I would also try employ guards who would mobilize around the site to watch the visitors as to make sure they do not try to sneakily touch or grab anything. Naturally, I would have an inventory of every object and a detailed description of what condition it was in and I would refer back to it weekly. Perhaps as to not appear as too serious or grave of a site and an experience, I would have a designated section with interactive games for viewers to learn more about the artifacts.

Posted at Apr 14/2011 10:59PM:
cmwu: Archaeological sites face many challenges based on the surrounding communities and the availability of professional excavation resources. For instance, if a potential site for archaeological excavation is discovered by accident by a nonprofessional, the site is subject to damage. Local people may steal the artifacts and sell them or reuse them for other purposes. In addition, like many of the respondents have indicated, the exposure to the various natural elements can corrode and erode the sensitive aged materials. Furthermore, because of the fragile nature of these artifacts, one must be very careful when transporting them to a permanent, protected location such as a museum. Of course, there is the other option of simply leaving the items as they were discovered; however, one must consider how to preserve them in the natural environment while making them available to scholarly research and public appreciation.

If I were an archaeologist, I would be very careful to educate and inform the community in which I worked of the value of preserving the ancient artifacts for posterity. I believe that knowledge is the best way to ensure that the cultural heritage is preserved; once the community is made aware of the importance of cherishing the ancient items, they can transmit this appreciation to future generations and ensure that the site is well protected and looked after.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 12:18AM:
avela: Exposure to the elements, human and animal disturbance, and harmful environmental substances are issues that greatly affect the quality of preservation of archaeological sites. While artifacts that have remained sealed underground for long periods of time are able to survive in relatively good condition, once they are removed from their resting place they face constant danger from their surroundings. Sunlight, wind and rain can degrade artifacts, even to the point of obscuring details useful to the archaeologists who study them. Architecture can also be compromised due to erosion caused by wind and rain. Humans and animals can also harm archaeological sites by contact with ancient buildings and artifacts. Tourists who visit sites such as Pompeii often don’t realize the damage they cause by touching or even taking away “souvenirs” from the ancient remains.

Archaeologists face a difficult problem in trying to preserve and protect their sites. Although inviting tourists and visitors is beneficial for raising awareness for their work, these untrained visitors can also put the projects at risk. Furthermore, it is extremely difficult to protect sites from natural elements once they have been uncovered. Even if archaeologists relocate the materials to specially maintained exhibits in museums, they can’t possibly move quickly enough to prevent any and all damage to their discoveries.

If I had my own archaeological site, I would use non-invasive methods of discovery and do as little actual excavation as possible. I believe that there is plenty to learn from using above-ground scanning techniques that would leave the actual buildings and artifacts undisturbed and intact. For those areas that would require excavation, I would be extremely cautious and efficient when removing articles to a safer, more protective space in a museum.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 12:32AM:
pmeehan: One prevalent issue is simply accessibility to ancient ruins. In Pompeii, for example, the city’s ruins are buried under layers of volcanic rock that is tricky to excavate; in fact, it is even often dangerous to excavate in places like Herculaneum because of the poisonous gases trapped in the stone. In Rome, on the other hand, the excavations must deal with the modern buildings that are covering the ancient sites. Nero’s Domus Aurea, for example, is buried underground and under modern buildings that cannot be removed.

Buildings are also subject, and have been subjected, to great change over the centuries. Frescoes in Pompeii are open to the elements, and modern pollution exacerbates this issue. Tourism also presents a similar concern. Throngs of sightseers put extra strain on sites like Pompeiian homes. A more minor problem is taking in to consideration how others have modified or changed buildings over time.

Finally, there is the issue of context. Upon digging up artifacts at a site, excavators remove them from their context to museums or research facilities. This can be a detriment to understanding how the elements in a site fit together, and can prove problematic in later research without knowing exactly how objects were found.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 01:08AM:
amarks: Archaeologists come across a very wide range of problems when dealing with the preservation and excavation of ancient artifacts. Many of the artifacts on the dig sight are obviously very old. With that said archaeologists digging these up need to exercise extreme caution when doing any digging or moving. Many archaeologists believe that some materials are more than just artifacts but rather demonstrations of religious and spiritual beliefs. You would also have to deal with present day tourists and other builders who are looking to expand onto dig sites. This would most likely be a problem next to bigger cities that are rapidly expanding. Also looters are a potentially big problem today. The excavating it self is very tedious work. When working with such old items you cannot rush or take any shortcuts. I believe that the hardest part of being an archaeologist would be, after finding something to take care of the item itself, work on the preservation of the item, and finally trying to restore the item with just the right amount of chemicals and all the other little things that would need to be done to try and make it look presentable in a nice museum.

If I were running an archaeological site, I would first and foremost protect the actual items from looters and the elements. I would then take and clear out all the prized processions and put them in a clean, safe, sterile, and well-monitored museum for all people to see. As for the site it self I would do my best to have it sealed off to outsiders during the night, but during the day let people in to walk around and enjoy the dig, with a guard on duty. I would not want any money I don’t think (maybe a little bit) but rather that all credit to the discovery be in my name.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 01:15AM:
jconnuck: Archeologists have the difficult task of both uncovering and preserving history. The two seemingly complimentary tasks are actually quite at odds. While ruins are of little use unearthed, they are safe. Once exposed to the elements archeological treasures begin to deteriorate much more rapidly. In addition to the damage done simply by the air, serious damage can occur, as in the case of Pompeii, when archeologists try to share their findings with the public. There seems to be a direct conflict between the desire to examine historical pieces as much as possible and the need to conserve them.

I think technology can play a large role in helping to find a way to both share as much as possible while still protecting the pieces. Digital imaging has come a long way, and I think digital art catalogues will have an increasingly important role in making archaeological sites available to the public while allowing for the preservation of the works of art. As the experience people can have with artwork displayed on screens improves, more works of art that really are too delicate to be on display can stay in safe environments.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 01:20AM:
lwilliams: Our society has gained so much from the discovery and excavation of ancient ruins. However, with artifacts deteriorating at an alarming rate, the proper preservation methods for archeological sites are a contentious issue. One argument that seems to separate many historians is whether remaining sites ought to be left untouched, preserved underground for future generations.

This approach certainly has its drawbacks. Not only do we lose the opportunity to witness and learn from these sites, the safe haven that many perceive the ground to be is not always as secure as it seems. Modern construction is ever expanding, often destroying or covering sites of interest. The earth itself, often thought of as the most protective place for objects that could be ruined by the elements, can contain detrimental chemicals and is susceptible to natures whims. Would these ancient materials then not be safer housed in temperature controlled, air-quality controlled museums, viewable for public appreciation?

Unfortunately, while the option of immediately storing all these items into vaults may be attractive to some ancients enthusiasts, such an approach is rash and could lead to the destruction of valuable experiences. We have witnessed the evolution of excavation methods from grave robbing to technologically advanced preservation. We now know that much was lost in the ways of archeologists past. For example, many of the body cavities in Pompeii must have been disrupted before the method of plaster casting the hollows was implemented. Those spaces can never be recovered. Therefore, there is merit in leaving some spaces marked but untouched for future generations to experience and uncover with their more advanced technology.

There is also a fundamental drawback to removing all pieces from on-site locations into museums. Much of the architecture and art is much more powerful when experienced on location, on the same paths walked by ancient Romans. While this may expose some sites at the risk of human and natural detriment, careful regulation of site openings could be a monitor.

These things in mind, my ideal situation would be to form a grand workshop over my excavation site. The temperature and weather regulation of my workshop would spare the site from the elements, while allowing much to remain on site. This would be a center that sponsored the world’s best archeologists and provided opportunities for students of archeology to come and invent new and better excavation methods. Every step of the excavation process would be well documented. Various sites within the grand workshop complex would allow for different visitor experiences, some where they could observe (but not touch) the ongoing work of archeologists, other, more durable (or recreated) sites for more public interaction. Some areas may be demarcated only as “for future excavation.” I would strive to engage the local community so that the populace felt compelled to enforce a respect for and interest in the site.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 01:51AM:

Archaeological sites face a variety of issues when charged with preserving ancient materials. They must provide the correct physical environment to ensure that the minimal amount of wear is taken on the piece. This includes everything from controlled humidity, and light exposure, to separation from excessive vibrations or extreme weather. However, many of the issues archaeological sites face are not physical in nature, such as legal red-tape, lack of funding, or conflict with modern construction. Without public support, it can be difficult, or near impossible to overcome the latter challenges. This places archaeologists in an interesting quandary. To physically preserve the materials, it is necessary and beneficial to limit their exposure to the outside world. However, without the awareness and publicity that that exposure provides, there is no public support for further preservation.

If I had my own archaeological site, I would be sure to document everything in a detailed and lasting manner. Rather than relying on paper records, or computer files in forms that might become outdated, I would continually seek to store information about the site in a way that would remain accessible. I would also invest in research on the best technologies and processes for preserving ancient materials.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 02:33AM:
sspiller: Time is an archeologist’s worst enemy. One inch of Rome gets buried every year. While these sites are buried, anything organic decomposes, usually a tragedy, but in cases like Pompeii, these items and people leave hallows in the ash, preserving the last moments of life. This decomposition destroys so much of daily Roman life. Then there is the dilemma of even getting the site excavated. In some cases like that of the Farnese Gardens on the Capitoline Hill, history is covering history and in order to access the older site, they would have to destroy a garden planted in the 1500s. If the site gets excavated, the archeologists risk ruining things themselves. They can collapse roofs, damage items, or even ruin things by exposing them to the sun. Once the site is excavated, it must withstand the elements. There is no way to cover all of the ruins in Rome and Pompeii, so the aging process picks up where it left off and the ruins get… ruined. Another threat to preservation is exposing the site to the rest of the world. The tourists ruin sites with their foot-traffic, trash, and vandalism. The only way to truly protect the site is to never uncover it in the first place.

If I had my own archeological site, I would preserve my site by giving it a roof and walls. The birthplace of Remus and Romulus on the Capitoline Hill is completely covered and protects it from the elements. I also would either limit or shut off completely the public’s access to the site. I would remove anything that could be removed and place it in a climate-controlled, safe museum or similar conservation location. I would also structurally reinforce any of the existing architecture, but not in a way that would alter the existing structure.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 03:45AM:
nelder: Archaeological sites face both the dangerous effects of nature and humanity. Exposure to wind, rain, and sunlight can damage sites and pieces of art beyond repair. Likewise, the carbon dioxide released by large and constant groups of tourist can have an equally negative effect on historical sites. There are many theories on how to deal with this. Some say that objects are meant to be seen in their natural site, regardless of the possibly negative effects, and other say that historical objects should be carefully monitored and placed within sites where they can easily be maintained, even if that means less people would have access to the piece. Both theories have their own merits. The former allows objects to be seen in their natural setting, which I think adds immeasurable value to the experience of viewing an object, while the latter extends the life of an object or site well beyond its natural life, thus allowing more people over time to view it. As much as I hate to take the middle road, if the decision where up to me I would try find a way to balance the two sides of preserving an archaeological site. I would do my best to extend the life of the object or site of my focus, but I would also not seek to overlook the value of opening the piece to the eyes of the public. Art should not be preserved solely for the sake of preserving it. Art should be seen. Locking away pieces of art solely in the name of preserving it seems idiotic. It seems to defeat the purpose art. Art is not meant to be an everlasting work, it is meant to be viewed, appreciated and then discarded as its moment fades away. I would seek preserve the life objects and sites and much as I could, but I would attempt to place the availability of the object or site to the public above that.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 08:30AM:

Archeological sites require the gentle hand of the scholar, but must also spring an interest for archeology in the general public. Once a historical site has been dug up, the corrosive elements in nature begin to wear on the found material. Oxygen, precipitation, wind and even the human breath exert a detrimental chemical force on ancient organic material, statues, and preserved architecture. If archeologists were able to maintain the environmental seal on their site, they would not need to determine how much exposure the general public was allowed to see historical finds. In Pompei parts of the city still lie buried under a thick layer of ash for exactly this reason. Once they unveil the rest of the city, all of Pompei's history will be on a disintegration track due to natural corrosion, and over exposure to human gracelessness. But they also need public interaction with their sites. It is through public interaction that they garner support and funding for their projects. If Pompei were not open to the public, Italien people would probably not fund its archeological investigation with as much vigor.

As these two forces counter-balance each other, it becomes difficult to find middle ground. Funding research is important, but the site is the primary concern. As such I would exert a very careful look toward to the publics interaction with archeological sites. They should know about them, but perhaps not necessarily through first hand experiences. Only trained professional deserve to engage with 100% responsibility to an archeological site - only those that have proven through hard work that they care for the intellectual material, and the physical remnants. Those that have not proven intellectual care, due not deserve to show physical care.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 09:08AM:
hpassafu: Archaeological sites and artifacts face various threats to preservation as time goes on. One of the main threats are humans and the exposure that humans bring with them. People, for example, walk through the city of Pompeii every day looking at the houses and buildings. For inside dark areas, people are not supposed to use flash photography but this ends up failing occasionally, thus harming things like wall paintings. People also have accidents sometimes, and can unintentionally brush up or run into an artifact, causing not that much damage, but over years and years, a build up of damage. Some sites are not even open to the public in order to preserve them, and only archaeologists are allowed to see them. Another threat to the preservation of sites is weather. Cities like Pompeii and Herculaneum are just like any other cities: open to the sun, rain, snow, wind and any other type of weather that hits the region. Exposure to these different types of elements is harmful to the sites and artifacts that are there. The impact of time on the artifacts is also detrimental. The longer the pieces are exposed to the elements of air, the more harm will be done. If I owned my own archaeological site, I would make sure to cover and shield it from the weather that could harm it. One of the difficult problems is trying to allow the site to be accessible to the public while trying to preserve the site at the same time. I would not allow the site to be open year round and would spend the months in which the site is closed on upkeep and maintaining everything. It is so important for people to be able to see the artwork; the more visitors the more funding for upkeep.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 09:15AM:
hstrausser: Archaeological sites and the artifacts discovered at them face many dangers once they are unearthed. Natural elements, such as weather and natural disasters deteriorate the quality and degree of preservation of sites, as do human elements. In order to learn from a site, people come to see it in person and investigate. Human presence takes a large toll on the preservation, and can especially be seen in famous sites like Pompeii. Modern urban development also affects preservation. In cities like Rome, ancient ruins exist literally amongst modern buildings that were built both before and after they were excavated. Looters also present a threat to artifacts found during archaeological digs.

If I had an archaeological site of my own, I would take all possible measures to preserve it. I would carefully document each artifact and structure found so that they were accounted for in the archaeological record. Artifacts would be placed in a clean, dry, environment that would allow them to be preserved to a better degree than if they were left at the site. As many objects as possible would be kept public and not privately owned so that people could learn from viewing them. As important as it is for tourists and scholars to visit and learn from archaeological sites, I would try to limit the amount of foot traffic through the site and try to cover as many structures as possible so that they were not subject to threats from the weather. Finally, I would make sure that there were many security guards and responsible workers at my site to prevent looting and to keep things in order at all times.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 09:18AM:
jthomas: When an artifact is first pulled out the ground, it is exposed to many more elements than it had in the thousands of years since being buried. It should be remembered that sometimes something is more stable in the ground. The artifact is now being exposed to oxygen, sunlight, and whatever else the weather might bring. Therefore, the excavation process should be done s quickly as possible, but with very careful precision, and without harming the object. It is a hard balance between speed and care. Perhaps the site could have a tent around the object in order for it to remain protected. However, this is not always possible, considering that some sites are extremely large, like the city of Pompeii. Pompeii experiences extreme weathering and foot traffic from people, making it very difficult to preserve. Unfortunately, this is what has to happen in order for it to be available to the public. Also sometimes it is important to realize that the technology may not exist to dig the object up at this time. For example, when the big dig in Boston took place, they discovered various colonial items. They dug up half of the items, but left the other half to be dug up for the generations later when better archeological methods are available. Also during the dig, I would very closely categorize every item discovered in order to stay precise and organized. Whatever artifact is dug up, should be put on view for the public. The purpose of art is defeated if it cannot be put on view for the whole world to see. I would try to restore the objects as well as possible, but not take away from the original artists work. Then the best place to put it would probably be a museum, where it wouldn't weather and better stay preserved and a large scale of people could view it.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 09:27AM:
cklimansilver: cklimansilver: In an age where it is more natural to deplete and reconstruct than it is to excavate and preserve, archaeological sites are at an unprecedented risk. Detritus and the natural elements––water exposure, wind, dust––can corrode ancient objects and disturb the soil whose minerals may be preserving them. However, more ambitious projects, such as building skyscrapers or other large edifices, will take their toil on the soil and surrounding areas, with the potential to disturb and destroy the artifacts buried beneath the ground. Tremors, from both construction and natural movements off the earth, can disturb the strata, making it more difficult to date items. While looting has always been a sad fact or archaeological excavation, tourism exacerbates the problem. Instead of stealing artifacts, tourists may litter or disturb the site, damaging objects even if they have not yet been dug up. And, ironically, even the archaeologists may be at fault. Despite their best intuitions, they (along with modern technology) always risk disturbing the very things they are trying to find.

I recognize many of these concerns, and I even dismiss them as the product of the modern era. Nonetheless, I think that measures can be taken to improve the site. Blocking off larger areas, when possible, can reduce the possibility of ground disturbances. Monitoring who enters the site can also help. Informing the public about particular archaeological sites can also spread awareness, generate public interest, and, hopefully, evolve respect for the artifacts.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 09:32AM:
mfinnegan: Upon being excavated, archaeological sites face the dangers of the elements, natural disasters, and perhaps even the unintentional mistreatment by archaeologists and curators. While sealed in the ground, artifacts are safe from these dangers, and archaeologists must proceed cautiously when excavating a site to make sure they do not ruin the artifacts and monuments for future generations. Putting artifacts on public display also exposes them to sunlight and oxygen, and in the case of large sites or monuments, natural elements and foot traffic. Thus archaeologists must be careful in taking the necessary precautions to protect artifacts from these elements to the best of their ability, whether that means enclosing the object in a glass case or erecting a tent over the site. If I were an archaeologist, I would make sure that I had the best technology available to me before excavating a site, so that I did not unintentionally ruin the artifacts by note adequately caring for them. If I was not sure of the resources available to me, I would leave the site untouched and let future archaeologists excavate with the proper resources available.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 09:54AM:

One of the most prominent issues involving artifacts and there preservation for future generations is that they are extremely prone to the elements of nature, human existence, and time. As soon as these artifacts (including pieces from small relics to ancient structures) are beginning to be excavated they are much more prone to these conditions.

Water and wind easily corrode these structures over time and humans are known for looting (where even the smallest rubble counts) and touching these surfaces (adding oils that can start to break down these relics at an even faster pace). Even the excavation process itself can harm the extremely fragile works if not done with the proper experience.

As seen in the case of the Coliseum there is a major issue in preserving art while humans are allowed to roam these ancient sites. The Coliseum was used basically as a marble quarry and because this sight was not seen as a historical monument nothing was done to help preserve it and today it stands in pieces of its original beauty.

If I were to have my own archeological excavation I would do everything within my power to help aid in the preservation and correct excavation of these sites. Perhaps converting large semi trucks in to mobile humidity and temperature controlled rooms. As well as looking into the most effective and efficient ways of excitation, before even starting the process.

We know that over time these monuments will continue to deteriorate even in the most perfect settings that we as humans can make to help in their preservation. So I believe it is vital to take high resolution pictures of each artifact, possibly taking a 360 shot of the smaller pieces, giving a possible chance for people to enjoy these pieces through virtual or holographic views in the increasing technological future. As well as taking advantage of the great resources and techniques, such as climate control and humidity adjustment, shown by modern museums around the world I believe that my excavations will be around for people to see and enjoy for hundreds of years.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 10:27AM:
sengle: Perfect preservation (although this term seems highly idealized and impossible) of archaeological sites is impeded by several barriers separated into two groups that may be characterized as "nature" and "nurture" (or lack thereof).

The passing of time can lead to weathering by the elements that can erode both geography and inanimate objects. The half lives of various materials vary significantly, therefore some objects may be found in better condition than others. Oxygen is often highly corrosive, therefore once artifacts have been exposed to the elements, there exists the risk of significantly altering its original condition.

Looting wreaks significant havoc on ancient archaeological sites. A lack of adequate financial resources coupled with improper punishment for the act has, in parts of the world, led to serious looting issues. Thankfully, laws are continuously being put in place to protect the land and its artifacts. However, an analogous issue is that many natives who inhabit regions that are being examined archaeologically construe the archaeologists as academic looters. The debate over who owns the land and who the what past is ceaseless (e.g. the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act).

What can be construed as the most some consequences stemming from scientists taking extra effort to preserve these ancient sites? From a philologic perspective, the areas may become inaccessible to the public, preventing them from enjoying and learning from the sites.

If I were in charge of excavating and preserving my own archaeological site, the first thing I would do to would be to ensure that my methods were aligned with the most up-to-date technology. A problem plaguing the field of archaeology is that of cult or "pseudo" archaeology. Archaeology is a scientific discipline and should be treated as such (e.g. forming hypotheses a priori, analyzing all data, etc).

Posted at Apr 15/2011 10:46AM:
cwelling: Unfortunately as time goes on, architecture and artifacts from previous civilizations become rarer and harder to preserve. Attempts to uncover new ruins is one way to learn about societies that came before us, however the discovery and excavation of these ruins can be dangerous to properly conserve. When searching for new artifacts and it is finally exposed to the elements such as oxygen, sunlight, perhaps rain, it runs the risk of diminishing them to the point of no repair. Archeologists must deal with not only nature and the issues that come with the elements, but they also must deal with human contact and interaction. Tourist sites and placing artifacts on display is important for our society now to view and appreciate, however the consequence of this is the faster deterioration of the precious ruins. If I were to run my own archeological site, I would make sure any area where artifacts were discovered were properly covered and correct precautions were taken in order to ensure that the artifacts were preserved to their fullest ability. While I would want every single one of the miraculous discoveries to be put on display for the whole world to admire and see, unfortunately that would in the long run hurt the display because the ruins would not last nearly as long. I would closely monitor how long each artifact was on display and make sure to emphasize the importance of no flash photography (especially for paintings) and absolutely no touching or fondling whatsoever. Learning from and appreciating past civilizations is high importance in order for our own society to advance and architecture and artifacts are the pinnacle of this understanding.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 10:47AM:
JGorelick: Exposure to natural elements such as wind, rain, sunlight, oxygen, airborne carcinogens all degrade the artifacts at an archeological site. We see that the best preserved sites are those that were not unearthed for a very long time, or were those sites that were actually buried (like Pompeii). Once a site has been found, the process itself of unearthing or excavating the artifacts themselves is oftentimes another step where ancient artifacts are damaged. Even with expert care and experience, there is always some degradation that occurs in the process.

If I were making the decisions in preserving artifacts at an archaeological site, I would make sure I had the resources to be able to use the most up to date technology and most experienced professionals in the field. Every site has it's necessary methods that are required to excavate, maintain, and store or display artifacts, and I would make sure that all research is done extensively before any steps are taken. The biggest threat to the longevity of artifacts is definitely the presence of humans, so depending on the type of artifacts or site I was excavating, I might make the decision to display only certain piece and just make extensive documentation about others. One example of a piece of technology that has enabled nearly endless display of an object is taking very high resolution photos or video of a site and actually create a 3d space that is able to be explored by both tourist and researchers alike.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 10:58AM:
robert grant villeneuve:

Clearly, Time is the determinant factor of all preservation. Time itself is impossible to stop, but there are ways in which it can be slowed down, in regards to the preservation of ancient materials. The goal of archeologists is to be able to find a method in which ancient materials can be put on display for the enjoyment of society, yet at the same time remain "safely preserved." Exposure to the natural world itself can be very taxing for the preservation of archeological artifacts and monuments. The natural world, to name a few, contains weather, chemicals, UV rays (from the sun), wind and many other phenomenons that slowly, but surely take their toll on artifacts. There is no "ideal" weather for preserving archeological sites, because all weather, in one way or another, effects the materials. Chemicals such as smog are also highly problematic for preserving, because they invariably tarnish materials, through a complex form of chemical interactions. UV exposure tarnishes the colors of materials more than anything els. UV fades the natural colors that materials may have, and therefore, aesthetically alters the ancients materials from their original look. Preserving archeological artifacts is such a complicated process and it can become a matter of science. This is the science and technology of preservation. Research can tell archeologists what type of chemicals tarnish certain materials, (like marble, stone) and science can find technological methods in which these objects can be preserved for the longing time possible. Considering these taxations of the natural world, Archeologists find themselves facing a Dilemna. On the one hand, they can keep these ancient materials hidden and sheltered away from the view of the public. In this case, the ancient materials can undergo the most profound form of preservation, and will, ultimately, be preserved for the longest amount of time possible, yet out of site from the public to enjoy. On the other hand, these materials can be completely open to the public, exposed to the natural world and other tarnishing exposures, yet aesthetically liberated for people to enjoy the spectacles. Clearly, this is a dilemma of cost and benefits, and it is up to the authorities of the archeological sites to determine where in this cost benefit situation they wish to grant the ancient materials.

If I had my own archeological site, I would gather as much information possible to be able to attain the most detailed sense of costs, and benifits, from both extremes. That is one extreme being ultimate exposure to all of public to enjoy, and the other extreme being ultimate preservation with nobody being able to enjoy. Once I have a very detailed and precise account of the costs and benefits from both extremes, I would want to find the "middle." This middle would take both extremes, and average them out, so as to find a result of fairness and equality in the regards to both ultimate exposure and ultimate preservation.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 11:00AM:
midenova: Archeological sites often face issues of destruction due to various factors. The most immediate threat is weather. Rain, snow, wind, and natural disasters all pose incredible risks to archeological sites, meaning that they are often destroyed or experience deterioration over time. Another factor is human threats, such as wars. The current Libyan conflict, for instance, could potentially hurt many ancient Roman archeological sites which already face issues due to climate risks. Finally, human development poses risks because as civilization progresses, humans leaves marks of their time on earth. This often means that they destroy old buildings to make way for their new ones.

If I had my own archeological site, I would ensure that it was preserved in a climate-controlled environment. While this might interfere with the original context, it would at least preserve my site for many more decades to come. Also, I would try to have my archeological site in a peaceful country that does not have too much upheaval, like Switzerland. If it came to transporting my site to this country, I would do so just to preserve the archeological site itself. Also, I would try to get my archeological site protected by a heritage association. This would give some extra assurance of my site’s longevity.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 11:21AM:
rdwarner: There are many issues archaeological sites face. For one, we are never sure what's under the earth, so just the act of digging can damage priceless artifacts while people excavate. Second, once ancient sites and artifacts are exposed to the elements they have the potential to degrade significantly. The effect of rain, sun, and other things such as pollution, if you're talking about an ancient site in a modern city such as Rome, can be very damaging and lead to poor preservation of the sites. Furthermore, by leaving it open to the public, sites face defamation and graffiti which further degrades them. I know a common practice, like that going on at the Hierakonpolis site is to excavate part of the site, and the leave parts unexcavated, because it is believed that technologies will always evolve and be better in the future than they are now. This must seriously irk archaeologists who develop a find and then have to wait for the whole thing to be uncovered. Finally, remains can often be damaged by people who just don't know that they're discovering something, say in a construction site or a backyard. If I were running my archaeoligcal site, I would take as many precautions as possible before excavating, with x-rays and scans, to know perhaps more of what's being dug up. I would also make sure the site was in a very protected environment, from the elements, and from the public. Finally, I would make sure all of the artifacts were copied for the public to see and the originals were taken elsewhere to be preserved and fully analyzed before they were put on display.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 11:40AM:
bborgolini: There are many issues at play when uncovering archaeological sites, including scientific factors and cultural factors. Scientifically, ancient objects can crumble, and become less bold when exposed to sudden temperature changes, sunlight and oxygen. These factors can cause decay on the artifacts. As time goes on, these artifacts become buried deeper and deeper under the developing world, and in this process they age and become even more vulnerable to natural elements, causing hte need to develope further advanced methods of technology to uncover them. There are also a lot of cultural factors, including the resistance of the countries who house the sites, and governmental projects accidentally uncovering artifacts, possibly not treating them as they should be. If I were excavating an archaeological site, I would take into strong consideration natural elements that would destroy sites. I would be sure to have the technological resources necessary to protect the artifacts from natural elements that they may not have been in contact with for a long time, for example, sunlight or oxygen. I would also have concerns about the desire of looters, and would take measures to secure my site. I would also make sure the artifacts were given to professionals or museums so that they can be analyzed and can contribute to our knowledge of the culture from which they came.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 11:44AM:

In regard to the preservation of ancient materials, archeological sites are faced with numerous issues. Nature proposes the greatest issues, for exposure to external elements, such as air, wind, rain, dirt, and sun, is highly destructive because these ancient materials and artifacts have been buried underneath the earth and protected from the impact of these uncontrollable elements. Tourism also serves as a significant issue, so it is crucial to find a balance between allowing people to interact with the site while still preserving them and preventing damage from occurring. There are many other issues in regard to the preservation of ancient materials. A lack of government funding is problematic, for without funding excavation and preservation cannot occur. It is also common for construction projects to occur next to major archeological sites, and the interaction between the two plays a huge role in site recovery. Pseudo archeology also presents issues, for informed people make their own conclusions not based on archeological evidence or knowledge. Such ignorant actions may permanently damage the ancient materials and hinder their preservation. The attitude of the general public is also a concern, for a greater concern for archeological history will lead to better preservation of these ancient sites and the materials and artifacts uncovered there.

If I had my own archeological site I would certainly limit the areas in which tourists are allowed. Actively containing tourists simultaneously allows for the preservation of the archeological space while still allowing tourists to interact with the site and the ancient materials. This balance seems to be most crucial.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 11:45AM:
jwang: It is truly a daunting task to successfully preserve an archaeological site for future study by people of hundreds of years later. Whether buried underground, discovered by scavengers, excavated by archaeologists, or open to public visits, an archaeological site always face the erosive impacts from both nature and human forces.

Before archaeological sites are discovered and protected by archaeologists, they are gradually wearing out by damages from natural forces such as rain, wind, sunlight, not to mention natural disasters such as floods and volcanic eruption. If they are buried underground, there is a great chance that modern architectural structure will build upon them, to some extent destroying the archaeological sites. When discovered by scavengers, or exposed to modern inhabitants of the same region, valuable materials and artifacts used in these archaeological sites, such as marble or bronze, are not expected to remain for very long. We have encountered people taking away marble from the Colosseum.

After archaeologists who possess the knowledge of how to preserve and protect archaeological sites take control of the sites, the damaging effects discussed above will slow down, but not necessarily eliminated. Natural forces are almost inevitable unless the archaeological sites are fully encapsulated in an external protective shield or structure, as in the case of Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin’s in Xi’an, China, and the Ara Parcis Augustae. At the same time, while archaeologists have knowledge about excavating with fewest damaging effects, the excavating process nevertheless involves some level of destruction. Fortunately, with modern day technology, professionals know how to restore archaeological sites to the best conditions. When archaeological sites are excavated studied, on many occasions they will be open for public visits for educating end. Under such circumstances, the damaging effects of human touch and carbon dioxide are inevitable, although we can rely on modern technology to minimize them.

If I had an archaeological site in the ancient time, I would probably ensure I have adequate technologies to preserve it before I start excavating it in large scale. And instead of keeping it to myself and trying to raise private fund to protect it, which could be incredibly large, I would seek help from archaeological professional from universities, research institutes and national organizations, and donate it for historical education purposes.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 12:04PM:
cwellington: Unfortunately as time goes on, architecture and artifacts from previous civilizations become rarer and harder to preserve. Attempts to uncover new ruins is one way to learn about societies that came before us, however the discovery and excavation of these ruins can be dangerous to properly conserve. When searching for new artifacts and it is finally exposed to the elements such as oxygen, sunlight, perhaps rain, it runs the risk of diminishing them to the point of no repair. Archeologists must deal with not only nature and the issues that come with the elements, but they also must deal with human contact and interaction. Tourist sites and placing artifacts on display is important for our society now to view and appreciate, however the consequence of this is the faster deterioration of the precious ruins. If I were to run my own archeological site, I would make sure any area where artifacts were discovered were properly covered and correct precautions were taken in order to ensure that the artifacts were preserved to their fullest ability. While I would want every single one of the miraculous discoveries to be put on display for the whole world to admire and see, unfortunately that would in the long run hurt the display because the ruins would not last nearly as long. I would closely monitor how long each artifact was on display and make sure to emphasize the importance of no flash photography (especially for paintings) and absolutely no touching or fondling whatsoever. Learning from and appreciating past civilizations is high importance in order for our own society to advance and architecture and artifacts are the pinnacle of this understanding.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 12:37PM:

Preservation of an archaeological site is a daunting task. It is a battle against both man-made and natural forces that would destroy the site. Sites that have been preserved for millennia, once unearthed, start to crumble in a matter of decades. The issue of digging up a site for investigation, and subsequently exposing it to the dangers of the outside world, is perhaps one of the most obvious difficulties of trying to preserve an archaeological site. However, I think another issue that needs to be examined is the need to educate the native populations about getting involved in the preservation of their cultural patrimony. Far too often do, perhaps well-intentioned, foreign investigators swoop down onto a site and alienate the native population. Uninformed by the archaeological investigators of the educational and cultural importance of the sites, laity might react by partaking in seeming treasure hunting in an attempt to benefit monetarily from a site that “should” be theirs. Artifacts dug up by laity are then robbed of their in situ context, and if sold to private owners, will not utilized for their educational value. Archaeologists need to instill a sense of pride for cultural history in the native populations and recognize that, though the educational merit of the site is beneficial to all, they are trespassers who would benefit from explaining themselves.

If I had my own archaeological site I would try to create jobs for the native population of the site so that they would understand the importance of preserving the site and would therefore be less likely to plunder and destroy. I would also be considerate of the different needs of the population where I was working. In Egypt, the soil along the Nile is full of archaeological sites, but it is also very fertile. Farmers, known as the sebakhin, who need to make a living, dig up this soil, some aware and some unaware of the sites they are destroying, to use it for their crops. In many respects I believe the study of archaeology is a luxury. When you aren’t worrying about feeding your family and trying to live it is very nice to think about studying the ancient world. As a university student and archaeology concentrator I recognize this. This is why I would want to give people, like the sebakhin, jobs for digging (and analyzing, and curating) in my site, so that they could be paid for their efforts to work carefully.

On a different note, I would want to make sure to preserve my site through heavy technological recording of the site. I know many archaeologists in South America set up cameras around sites that scan all day and create movie that can be overlaid to create complete 3D replicas of the sites so that, even if time does take its toll, the site can still be analyzed and preserved in some respects for educational purposes.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 01:50PM:
tborden: The decisions faced by those charged with responsibility over an ancient archaeological site represent tradeoffs between the preservation and accessibility. On the one hand, a site might be best preserved by never unearthing it in the first place, or by sealing it off from its environment somehow. This, however, would prevent anyone interested in the site from enjoying or learning from it. On the other hand, a site could be completely opened up to scholars as well as the general populace, which opens up those avenues for gaining knowledge, and can create tourism income for the local area. Such an open approach would also bring about the demise of the site at a much faster pace. Natural factors that pose a greater threat to sites that are more exposed might include erosion caused by rain or wind, chemical degradation from exposure to air or sunlight, damage from natural disasters like flooding or earthquakes, and possibly biological hazards like plant overgrowth, algae or fungus colonization, or animal interactions (maybe goats or tigers are jumping around on pillars or something). Just as dangerous, if not more dangerous to archaeological sites are human-made factors, including disassembly by looters or people looking to reuse the materials composing the site, physical and chemical degradation from tourists interactions or by smog or other harmful industrial byproducts, and damage caused by improper excavation techniques, either by well-intentioned but poorly equipped scholars or by industrialists uninterested in archaeology seeking to utilize the site's for some other purpose. If I was charged with managing an archaeological site, my choices regarding preservation versus accessibility would have to be informed by such factors as the current state of the site, the site's location and local interest in the site, and the technology available for both excavation and documentation. If, for example, interest in the site was mainly limited to foreign scholars, I might be more inclined to hold off on allowing the site to be further excavated until the local population or government took an interest. Perhaps the country that has "inherited" this site, so to speak, is currently occupied in pressing matters like war or famine, and can't afford the luxury of investing in archaeology at the moment, and it would seem unfair to me to allow individuals from other countries to jump in and take away the cultural experience of exploring the site. When the country and its people are ready and interested, unearthing pieces of its own cultural heritage could and should be a very powerful experience. If instead, however, the site was already mostly excavated, and local interest in the site was very high, I would look into ways of documenting the site with digital technology, so that its current state could be preserved exactly in some form while the site itself could be open to visitors, and would continue to be a source of pride and inspiration for the local population, as well as a source of knowledge for scholars.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 01:51PM:
tborden: I don't really understand why, but the paragraph breaks in my post above "didn't take" somehow.

Posted at Apr 15/2011 04:14PM:
becohen: Roman Art Preservation Answer Archeological sites face a variety of threats, both man-made and natural, which much be minimized to preserve important pieces of cultural history and enable scholars to expand our knowledge of ancient societies. Unearthing any archeological site is inherently a risk as it exposes sites, formally protected by layers of earth or debris, to the elements, looting, and other threats to the longevity of ancient artifacts and buildings. Air, heat, rain, and sunlight all can have extremely pernicious effects on materials and can cause the degradation of structures and artifacts that had previously been well preserved underground. Thus the knowledge that can be gained from unearthing a site must always be balanced with the potential degradation of materials which may result. Additionally, buried structures may have limited ability to stay upright and may need various bracings and periodic reviews of their structural integrity to avoid collapses such as those occurring at Pompeii in 2011.

Furthermore, exposing a site to human contact may cause various forms of degradation. Looting is a common threat at ancient site throughout the world and is often difficult to prevent entirely, especially in poorer countries, where locals may have greater incentive to take artifacts from archeological sites. Not only do looters take items away from their place of origin, depriving archeologists of potentially valuable information about objects even if they are recovered, but looters tend to dig in haphazard manners that can often damage the structural integrity of a site or generally put sites into harmful states of disorder. Furthermore, tourism can often also gradually degrade fragile sites, especially if tours of the site are not well supervised. The desire to teach people about the art and architecture of the past must be balanced with the need to preserve sites for future generations of both spectators and scholars.

If I managed an archeological site, I would try to better manage human contact with ancient materials. Incorporating local people into the excavation process and giving them a greater stake in the work at archeological sites is a good way to prevent looting and foster the long-term protection of significant cultural sites. Furthermore, less invasive forms of tourism should be explored, including further use of detailed 3D reconstructions, to ensure that people can learn about archeological sites and appreciate their beauty and significance without disturbing them to such an extent. The primary goal of archeology should be to study sites and gain new knowledge for the ancient world. For archeological sites to last well into the future, it is imperative that new technologies and more careful attitudes toward dig sites are adapted to ensure their longevity.

Posted at Apr 20/2011 12:04AM:
clebovit: Some of the problems that archeological sites are those inherently tied to the nature of the archeology. By uncovering the actual artifacts, the elements begin to erode the artifacts themselves making a specific and timely plan to get the artifacts to a place where they can remain preserved permanently a necessity. However, if such an option is not available, like at a site akin to Pompeii, where buildings are obviously too large to be relocated, archeologists have to avoid a the more pressing problem of human interference.

While archeologists specifically are to be hopefully trusted with handling ancient relics, some of the excavators may not be as appropriately trained. Local workers and excavation crews while obviously having good intentions could damage sites with inaccurate techniques. Furthermore, tourists and non-excavation personnel cause the greatest problem. Humanity has a tendency to want to touch and examine everything, and natural detriment to an archeological dig.

My plan for an archeological dig would focus more on having lots of contingent plans then going for one straight method. Weather conditions are fickle so having an understanding for what is to be done in situations of rain, snow, and general natural disaster are critical, as are establishing means to control tourism until safe precautions have been established to avoid them damaging the site.

Posted at May 06/2011 04:49PM:
nfadaifa: I think that archaeological sites face many difficulties in preserving ancient materials: For one, modern day chemicals commonly pollute the world surrounding these artifacts in damaging ways that archeologists must find solutions to reverse and prevent damage. Also with society continually growing and changing and the daily technological advancements available, there is no telling what affect these new advancements will cause to the earth or what harm the ancient materials will suffer because they are not made to withstand such advancements. While archeologists can provide solutions to the causes of current known factors of damage, future advancements and damages of new technology are vast and unknowable and therefor unpreventable.

I think if I had my own archaeological site I would put my artifacts in an organic environment and attempt to keep modern day pollutions away from this space. I think in order to keep these ancient materials safe they need to be shielded from an atmosphere they were not made to withstand and survive in. The people who made these artifacts could not have imagined such pollution of today and I think the ancient materials should stay in a space that is blind to changing atmosphere and environment outside.