After the excavation
The condition of buildings exposed in excavation always presents a problem.
Treatment varies from case to case.
rescue excavations: any structures excavated are usually built
over, and in most cases destroyed. There are only a few exceptions where
the remains are of such importance (for tourism or historical knowledge)
that attempts are made to preserve them. Such undertakings are always connected
with high costs.
- backfilling: covering the site again with sand or debris. Most sites are
covered over again after excavation. This can cause objections: if so much
money has been spent on an excavation, the argument goes, why should future
visitors be prevented from seeing the remains? Certainly, in an ideal world,
the site would be preserved integrally for the appreciation of visitors; however,
very often sites are inaccessible, and the continued exposure of remains may
threaten the survival of a structure. There is an urgent need for public archaeology,
a debating 'public space' in which archaeologists can explain to public and
politicians the costs of exposure, and in which a public decision can be taken
in the best interests of the site, the local inhabitants, and present and
future generations of visitors and researchers.
- restoration: ideally any structures exposed in excavation should be restored
or at least consolidated. Especially fragile features such as paintings still
attached to walls disappear often very soon after exposure to the air; often
their survival can only be guaranteed either by detaching them from the walls,
or by constructing a shelter over and/or around them. Sadly the cost of conservation
is a great obstacle, though perhaps not as great as lack of awareness of the
problem among public and even specialists.
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