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Salvage Archaeology

Salvage archaeology is a branch of archaeology in which the excavation, analysis and collection of artifacts found at archaeological sites is performed in a swift manner in order to avoid damage due to the imminent hazard and destruction of archaeological sites.

Also referred to as rescue archaeology or preventive archaeology, salvage archaeology aims to recuperate historical artifacts that are in danger of being destroyed due to pending alterations to the geographical area in which they are found, such as a major construction project or alteration to the land. Examples of such changes include the building of a road, dam or in any other such projects that will impact the composition of the area’s s soil; areas vulnerable to warfare are also often the site of salvage archaeology.

A new branch of archaeology, salvage archaeology has become increasingly central in the field of archaeology. It is crucial when the development of a specific site may devastate significant archaeological deposits. As such, developers working in the area to be affected will generally factor in to their project time to allow for the allocation, excavation and analysis of artifacts and other significant archaeological findings. In some cases, salvage archaeologists are also able to work toward the protection and preservation of their findings.

In addition, salvage archaeologists are sometimes able to examine vast surfaces of land for artifacts and valuable archaeological findings in areas up to several kilometers long. On site, preventive archaeologists extract and identify important materials and record them. Rescue archaeologists will also analyze and identify even the seemingly most insignificant objects in order to establish the most complete profile possible of the artifacts and other archaeological remains of the area. In situ preservation, the on site preservation of archaeological findings on site, is also an integral part of salvage archaeology.

Developed thirty years ago, this category of archaeology has its roots in Britain. Today, salvage archaeology continues to grow in its importance. Salvage archaeology is limited in its practice to certain geographic regions. Salvage archaeology is mainly practiced in certain areas in North and South America, Western Europe and above all, the Middle East. It is a particularly important form of archaeology in countries such as Israel, the United States and Egypt.

Furthermore, the development of industrial archaeology has enabled archaeologists to focus not only the allocation and excavation of artifacts, but also on the analysis and recording of these artifacts in order to establish an archaeological profile of the geographical area in question.

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