Saturday, 18 January 2014

Archaeology meets nuclear power

Professor Cornelius Holtorf (Kalmar) has always been involved in interesting projects. First he created a web site of megaliths for his PhD, then he visited Las Vegas with his archaeologist’s hat on and now he is involved in thinking what to do with nuclear power station fuel. In principle it is all about our future and how archaeologists think (or not about the future). Cornelius Holtorf and Anders Högberg work together with the Swedish SKB that handles nuclear fuel in order to study how archaeologists mark things and if archaeologists can plan for future.

Even if the project ‘Hundred thousand years forward and backward in time: archaeology meets nuclear fuel storage’ mainly approaches the questions theoretically and studies archaeologists’ attitudes, it is clear that this is a very serious question to which contemporary archaeology can contribute. There will be so many questions about how to keep the memory of these sites in the countries where the decision has been made to bury the fuel down to the ground or to the bedrock where it has to be held safely for eternity. How the people will keep the memory of the sites alive? How these sites can be marked in such a way that the future generations can understand not to go there even if they have lost the memory of the site? How has the human cognition evolved and do we have to take into consideration the future developments? Will the future human being read and perceive as we do? What kind of signs will be effective? What sings signify death and danger?

The project has interviewed a series of professional archaeologists who work in heritage management and asked how far they make plans and how far do they plan the future of heritage management? It turned out that the consciousness of the preservation for the future is surprisingly low and it seems that the average time people are thinking ahead is about five years – if they have time to think from managing the heritage fulltime. The beacon of the light in future consciousness seem to be Unesco, but that is not that surprising when one considers that they manage the World Heritage Sites that are managed and preserved for the future. Otherwise, archaeologists seem to expect their heritage management duties to continue.

However, the recent financial trends are not very promising and one can turn to history and wonder, if this is the slow downhill paralleling the one faced by the late Roman world. Will it all be about slow stagnation and cutting down again and again? In such a case, one may have to be prepared...

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