Dangerous Places: Health, Safety, and Archaeology

Dangerous Places: Health, Safety, and Archaeology

Dangerous Places: Health, Safety, and Archaeology

Dangerous Places: Health, Safety, and Archaeology

Synopsis

Over the last decade, North American archaeologists have become increasingly aware that numerous biological and man-made hazards pose significant health risks for field researchers. The present collection is the first descriptive and analytical volume on the health safety issues that confront Americas archaeological community.

Excerpt

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Archaeological sites often seem to be romantic, even idyllic, places where scientists unravel the mysteries of the past and discover fascinating physical evidence of lost cultures. As archaeologists, we see little reason to disavow the public of this perception for the simple reason that it’s largely correct. Archaeological sites are indeed fascinating, educational, and wonderful places and the research that archaeologists undertake in the field, while of serious intent and important in its consequences, is also quite simply great fun. Many professional archaeologists have waxed poetic about the joys of fieldwork, the thrill of discovery, and the pleasure of being in a discipline in which, as one of our children put it, “you get to play outside for your job.” Many archaeologists, perhaps most of us, are in fact enthralled by that part of our chosen career that allows us to wander outside and “play in the dirt.”

Too often, however, unrecognized dangers are silently harbored within that very same earth. Bacterial and viral infections rest quietly hidden in the soil, are concealed in the animals that roam through our sites, reside in the insects that desire our blood, or even lie in wait in the organic remains we discover. Parasites that once resided unharmoniously within the intestinal tracts of past populations may now be lying in wait, ready to blossom once again within a new generation of unsuspecting hosts who search the privies and septic earth where they hide. The mortal remains of individuals who died of historical scourges that once afflicted humanity may still host the pathogens that killed them, dormant and waiting for a vulnerable modern population. Historically disposed of outside the factory and mill door, toxic chemical wastes and manufacturing by-products may continue to permeate areas now often subject to

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