Headlines (Campus Updates)
Laurier Archaeology class wants to protect vanishing dig sites
Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing
Students from a fourth-year Archaeology seminar are conducting a study on the public’s perception of their profession to discover the best way to protect archaeological sites from vanishing.
“The preservation of our cultural heritage, here in Waterloo and also around the world, depends on public recognition of the importance and value of archaeology and the materials recovered from excavations,” said Bonnie Glencross, assistant professor in the Department of Archaeology.
“Archaeological sites are non-renewable resources; once they are ruined, information can no longer be recovered.”
Archaeological sites can be lost or ruined in a variety of ways. As a result of war, antiquities have been looted in Iraq. Similarly, the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan were intentionally destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. Currently, the protests in Egypt have resulted in museums being vandalized and artifacts being damaged.
Destruction of sites can also occur from simple things like growing urban sprawl and land development – a common problem in North America.
“We are quite lucky here in Ontario with legislation that requires assessment before any development occurs,” said Glencross. “However, this has not always been the case nor is it in place everywhere around the globe.”
Sarah Bolstridge and Haylee Alderson are two students working on the study. They said while legislation has helped protect archaeological sites to some extent, public support remains essential.
“The image of the archaeologist has been skewed by the media, and people aren’t necessarily aware of the important work we really do,” said Alderson. “They think we’re like Indiana Jones digging for gold, when we’re really preserving Canadian heritage and the history of Aboriginal Peoples.”
“People aren’t aware of how much history is under their feet, they think that an artifact isn’t worthwhile if it’s not 4,000 years old,” Bolstridge adds.
Bolstridge was a student at the Wilfrid Laurier University archaeological field school, directed by Archaeology Chair John Triggs. The site is beside the Grand River just outside of Brantford, where the former “boom and bust” town of Indiana existed in the 1850s. They found something no one knew was there: a settlement of both European settlers and aboriginals.
Alderson was a student at the field school directed by Laurier Professor Emeritus Dean Knight, located on an Iroquoian site outside of Orillia that dates back to the 16th century.
“I saw how they lived, the construction of their settlements and how their religion and ways of living developed over the years,” she said. “When you come across something no one has seen for hundreds of years, it completely blows you away.”
As part of Glencross’ class, Bolstridge, Alderson and their peers will take the information from their survey and apply it to public education strategies. You can participate in their class study by completing the online survey.
“Surveying the university community will give us insight into the knowledge and perceptions of the next generation, who will ultimately be responsible for preserving our cultural heritage into the future,” said Glencross.