The Preservation and Destruction of Evidence

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The Preservation and Destruction of Evidence
The preservation and destruction of evidence is a result of both the processes of the
natural environment and human activity. Large amounts of evidence have been lost,
more than have been preserved in fact, and this makes it difficult for historians and
archaeologists to fill the gaps between finds, however, many artefacts have been
rescued as a result of human activity. Archaeologists have always made it their
primary objective to preserve evidence of the past, and although many of it has been
lost, the new age of technology has allowed archaeologists to do what could not have
been accomplished in the past.
The Natural environment
Artefacts can simply decay over a long period of time, and along with climate and
vegetation, other natural processes such as floods, earthquakes, land subsidence and
volcanoes have added to the loss of past evidence. Apart from this, the earth’s
inhabitants (plants and animals) destroy large masses of evidence as well. Animals
such as rodents (mice, rats etc) birds, beetles, green-timber borers, dry-timber borers,
clothes moths, cockroaches, termites, booklice and silverfish have all spoiled different
elements of the past. (I.e. an ancient statue that has deteriorated due to oxidation)
However, the natural environment can protect artefacts from humans. It could be
keeping objects hidden in the ground, or changing their composition in order to
survive. One example of this would be the Tollund man who was preserved in a peat
bog for roughly 2000 years and can still be seen today.
Human Activity
Human activity can also destroy large amounts of past evidence. In particular,
warfare, which brings with it looting and destruction of valuable antiques and
treasures. Tourism has just as much impact, if not more. Tourists can easily damage
past evidence through normal human activity, even if it is just walking on something,
touching or breathing on it. Urban development is yet another means of destruction,
where infrastructure is built on top of ancient sites to provide for the needs of the
present, which makes the sites almost impossible to recover. Finally, pollution can
deteriorate artefacts through factories, traffic and chemicals found in the ground.
One example of human activity’s destructiveness is the Angkor Temples in
Cambodia, where land mines have destroyed large amounts of ancient history.
Despite this, human activity is responsible for the discovery and preservation of many
ancient artefacts, which would have perished otherwise. One example is the recovery
of the dead sea scrolls.
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