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Researchers Warn Historic Sites Could Be Washed Away By Rising Seas

Researchers have created a digital database of archaeological sites in the U.S.—and thousands could be lost to sea-level rise.
December 1, 2017, 12pm PST | Elana Eden
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Archaeological SIte
An archaeological dig at the Jamestown National Historic Site.
Zack Frank

new study shows that sea level rise could drown tens of thousands of archeological sites in the southeastern United States alone, potentially destroying critical evidence about early North American settlements and their own responses to climate change," Kate Wheeling writes in Pacific Standard.

According to the study, nearly 20,000 archaeological sites would be submerged if sea levels rose by one meter—an increase that could occur by the end of the century. At five meters, more than 32,000 sites would be destroyed. For more inland areas, it's not the sea itself but mitigation efforts that could pose a threat, as "development to accommodate relocated populations or to try to stave off flooding" could destroy cultural resources.

To complete the study, researchers catalogued more than half a million archaeological sites in a comprehensive multi-state database dubbed the Digital Index of North American Archaeology.

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Published on Wednesday, November 29, 2017 in Pacific Standard
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