Review – Public Archaeology and Climate Change

2 mins read
Edited by Tom Dawson, Courtney Nimura, Elías López-Romero, and Marie-Yvane Daire
Oxbow Books, £38
ISBN 978-1785707049
Review Penelope Foreman

This book collects 18 papers that were inspired by the themes and discussions of the ‘Engaging the public with archaeology threatened by climate change’ session at the 2015 European Association of Archaeology conference. A timely and challenging volume, its impressively international collection of authors highlights the complexity of defining not only climate change’s effect on archaeology, but also the very notions of ‘heritage’ and ‘public archaeology’, as well as how the three intersect. Refreshingly, the editors recognise that hard-and-fast definitions are difficult, particularly where public archaeology is concerned, and let individual authors define it in their own ways – leading to a guide where each case study serves as an exemplar of a different best-practice approach.

Covering six continents, the chapters themselves are diverse and engaging, with insights ranging from worldwide concerns (preserving UNESCO World Heritage sites) to the intensely local (inspiring passionate community engagement on Guidoiro Areoso island in Spain).

Perhaps understandably, the book is weighted in favour of addressing the loss of archaeology and heritage at coastal sites, where some of the worst effects of climate change are most obvious and sometimes most extreme. Despite this bias, the papers are still intersectional and multivocal in their approach, giving a rounded view of the challenges and potential community-based solutions. Innovative digital techniques are often proposed, though with the caveat that designing and implementing digital-based public engagement can have both positive and negative outcomes when it comes to accessibility. Taken as a complete volume, the book emphasises through each case study the urgent need for reflexive, sustained, and genuinely worthwhile inclusive public-facing approaches.

A very necessary wakeup call for archaeology, this volume serves as both a guide and a provocation. It invites archaeologists to work more closely and more fruitfully with communities for the future security of archaeology and heritage, both tangible and intangible.

This review appeared in CA 336.

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