jueves, 17 de marzo de 2011

Ancient treasures threatened by climate change

Ancient treasures threatened by climate change

Archaeological treasures that have been frozen for millennia are being destroyed because of climate change, research suggests

Remains in some of the coldest places on earth are being exposed as warmer temperatures cause ice and hardened ground to thaw. The fragile materials at risk include ancient tombs, artefacts and human remains. They are often culturally significant, especially for indigenous populations. Scientists at the University of Edinburgh’s Business School studied cases of damaged remains in three locations around the world – at permafrost in the Altai Mountains in central Asia, sea ice in Alaska and glaciers in the Rocky Mountains.

They found coastal erosion caused by retreating sea ice is damaging remains in an Inuit village in Alaska, including a fourth-century coastal cemetery. Melting glaciers in the Rocky Mountains pose a threat to Native American human remains and artefacts such as hunting tools, weapons and clothing.

Researchers also discovered that thawing temperatures represent a risk to burial mounds in the Altai Mountains of central Asia. The site, containing the only frozen tombs in the world, is the resting place of Eurasian nomadic horsemen with links to modern-day Siberian nomads. The graves contain treasures such as gold and ancient carpets.

Scientists are calling for a global organisation to be set up to maintain a record of vulnerable sites and coordinate efforts to conserve items that are at risk, particularly indigenous remains.

Dr Dave Reay, Director of the University’s MSc in Carbon Management, who supervised the study, said: "Warming climates are expected to lead to more melting ice, and we need to take action to safeguard ancient treasures. Long-term efforts are needed to locate archaeological remains that are at risk, and research how best to care for them. We must also consider the political and cultural implications of preserving important relics."

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