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The Role of Magnetometry in Managing Arctic Archaeological Sites in the Face of Climate Change

  • Lisa M. Hodgetts (a1) and Edward J. H. Eastaugh (a1)

Abstract

Climate change is impacting archaeological sites around the globe, and Arctic sites are among the most vulnerable because the region is experiencing particularly rapid change. In the face of this threat, archaeologists, heritage managers, and northern communities need to develop strategies for documenting and monitoring Arctic sites and prioritizing them for further investigation. Using three case studies from Banks Island in the western Canadian Arctic, we demonstrate how magnetometer survey could assist in this process, despite the region's poorly developed soils, widespread glacial tills, and periglacial geomorphology, which pose challenges for the technique. The case studies illustrate the utility of magnetometry in mapping both archaeological and permafrost features in the Arctic, allowing it to rapidly investigate site structure and assess the level of threat due to climate change.

Les changements climatiques affectent les sites archéologiques partout dans le monde et les sites arctiques sont parmi les plus vulnérables puisque cette région est caractérisée par des changements particulièrement rapides. Face à cette menace, les archéologues, les gestionnaires du patrimoine et les communautés nordiques devront développer des stratégies pour documenter et contrôler l’état de ces sites et prioriser l’étude plus approfondie de certains d'entre eux. Grâce à trois études de cas réalisées sur l'île Banks dans l'Arctique oriental canadien, nous démontrons ici comment la prospection magnétométrique peut être utile dans ce contexte, malgré l’épaisseur très mince des sols, la présence répandue de tills et la géomorphologie périglaciaire, qui posent des défis pour l'utilisation de cette technique de prospection. Ces études de cas illustrent l'utilité de la magnétométrie pour la cartographie des vestiges archéologiques et des tertres de pergélisol dans l'Arctique, permettant la documentation rapide des structures, et l’évaluation du niveau de vulnérabilité des sites causé par les changements climatiques.

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