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Archaeology and the Natural Environment. Foreword

Barney Sloane

Cite this as: Sloane, B. 2023 Archaeology and the Natural Environment. Foreword, Archaeology and the Natural Environment Internet Archaeology 62.


The relationship between the cultural history of the human race and the natural history of our planet is indivisible. For hundreds of thousands of years, we have depended upon, been shaped by, and, in turn, shaped the natural environment which we occupy. It is therefore perhaps a little surprising that the European Archaeological Council has only just turned its attention to this subject.

The timing is excellent however. The contributions in this volume were first presented in the stunning venue that is the Museum of Natural History in Vienna, itself a host of some fabulous archaeological exhibits, at a time when strict divisions between cultural heritage management and natural environment management are beginning to dissolve. As states and communities wake up to the need for climate action, how we manage our land, water and ecosystems in an integrated way is profoundly affecting our approaches to archaeology.

Our symposium, and the articles contained in this volume, reflect three key aspects of archaeological heritage management as it relates to the natural environment. First, archaeological remains are a vital source of information about past ecosystems, providing first-class evidence of the changing nature of landscapes over time, the introduction and extinction of species and the way in which people valued the natural environment in the past. How can we as heritage managers make the most of this potential? Second, archaeological sites and monuments are themselves increasingly seen as contributors to biodiversity with additional value to the visiting public. What lessons can we learn and share about successes in this area? And third, there are occasionally tensions between the laws and policies of archaeological heritage management and those of natural environmental management. Can we explore and learn from examples where compromise or balance has been successfully accommodated? These contributions represent the starting point for many important conversations, and I commend their quality and scope. The symposium organisers and especially the scientific committee deserve considerable thanks.

Corresponding author: Barney SloaneORCID logo
Outgoing President of EAC

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