Archaeological sites threatened by rising seas

Published: December 1, 2017
Sites at risk due to rising sea levels in the southeastern US
Photo: DINAA via Plos One

Sites at risk due to rising sea levels in the southeastern US Photo: DINAA via Plos One

A recent study published in the Plos One journal has predicted the adverse effects of rising sea levels on nine US states.

The research team, led by archaeologist David Anderson,  scoured a broad spectrum of data such as the Digital Index of North American Archaeology (DINAA). The researchers predicted that millions of people residing in coastal districts will be displaced, with numerous historic sites also at risk of submergence.

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13,000 sites are at risk of destruction by a one-meter rise in sea levels, including a 1,000 sites which fulfill the requirements to be added to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). This destruction is expected over the next century, according to the report.

The loss of archaeological sites is even greater when considering the predicted sea-level rise in subsequent centuries, with 32,000 archaeological sites predicted to be submerged with a five meter rise in sea levels- 2,400 or them eligible for placement on the NRHP.

These predictions have been stated as being on the lower end of the spectrum of predicted damage as the DINAA data set of archaeological sites was not comprehensive. The study states that: “Many more unrecorded archaeological and historic sites will also be lost as large areas of the landscape are flooded.”

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Furthermore, the study ends by stating that an increase in sea-level will destroy “much of the record of human habitation of the coastal margin in the southeast within the next century to two centuries”. This is but a fraction of the total global damage which will be inflicted globally by climate change and warming seas, warned the researchers.

This story first appeared on Quartz

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