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Archaeologists often excavate the earth in the line of duty. In this era of increased environmental awareness, there is growing concern over the environmental impact of such excavations and related archaeology activities.
With this in mind, it is important for a trainee site archaeologist to understand a few of the best management practices for undertaking excavations so as to excavate in the most eco-friendly manner.
Protection of Existing Wildlife Species
Before undertaking site excavation, it is important for an archaeologist to establish the presence of existing wildlife species or the lack thereof. This is because archaeological excavations will tamper with the natural habitat of existing species. In this context, habitat refers to the natural land forms and rocks present within the excavation site.
Animal species most commonly affected by archaeological excavations include newts and lizards, bats, badgers and a number of butterfly species. Large communities of existing animal species must be relocated prior to excavation-related activities.
Archaeologists who ignore the importance of this management practice risk finding themselves on the wrong side of the law should they disturb a protected habitat or a protected animal species.
In the event that the existence of an animal species is discovered after the excavation has begun, all related activities should grind to a halt until proper action is taken to secure the animals and their habitat.
Physical Site Damage or Contamination
Archaeologists also need to ensure that they undertake site excavation in such a way that physical damage to the site (also referred to as ground contamination) is minimized.
New contamination of land on an excavation site is attributed to various factors, including an initial misjudgment with regard to the extent of contamination or damage. It may also result when an archaeologist stockpiles contaminated materials on a noncontaminated area of the site. When this happens, the contaminants in these materials leach into the ground, resulting in physical damage.
Management Of Archaeological Waste
Archaeological excavations produce different types of waste products that can have an adverse effect on the environment. Trainee archeologists and other site workers need to understand the waste hierarchy recommended for management of archeological waste.
The waste hierarchy only advocates for disposal of archaeological waste as a last resort. Archaeologists should look for ways to prevent the production of waste or ways to reuse waste products if creation prevention is not entirely possible. Recycling should also be considered for waste management before the archaeologists determine that such waste should be disposed.