Accepted Paper:

Disaster data from Arctic archaeological sites: a rapidly disappearing resource  

Author:

Anne Jensen (UIC Science LLC)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation will examine both the loss of cultural heritage and the responses, as well as the loss of paleo-environmental archaeological archives which can help with reducing risk future disasters from contexts around the Arctic Ocean and its marginal seas.

Paper long abstract:

Arctic archaeological sites have exceptional organic preservation thanks to the frozen environment in which they were deposited and have remained. These sites archive the residues of human subsistence activities, in stratified layers, often spanning millennia. These remains are unique sources of data on past ecosystems that can be used to track environmental change through time, and to correlate those changes with possible drivers, including natural catastrophes, providing critical information to managers of fisheries or wildlife and to those whose food security depends on successful harvesting of wild foods.

Some sites contain evidence of past natural disasters which directly affected the inhabitants. They can be powerful tools to educate local populations about the possibility of repeat occurrences, particularly valuable for low-frequency events. This can help motivate people to make some preparations, thus greatly reducing future risks.

Arctic sites have been considered stable, but climate change has altered the situation. As the ground warms, factors leading to decay of organic materials have more opportunity to act. Coastal sites are threatened by thawing permafrost, longer exposure to open water and waves, and rapidly increasing erosion. Loss rates of tens of meters per year have been recorded, sometimes in a single storm. These losses are experienced as disasters by community members. This presentation will examine both the loss of cultural heritage and the responses, as well as the loss of paleo-environmental archaeological archives which can help with reducing risk future disasters from contexts around the Arctic Ocean and its marginal seas.

Panel LL-AS01
Arctic risk management network (ARMNet)