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efforts of leading archaeologists to study and preserve the past
take on particular urgency given that thousands of archaeological
sites are lost each year to development. "In another few generations,
most sites that exist today will be destroyed, erased from the Earth,"
says Stanish. While countries such as the United States devote considerable
resources to protecting archaeological sites from being lost to
development, for less-wealthy nations - which, ironically, tend
to have the highest density of interesting archaeological sites
- such protection efforts are frequently given a lower priority.
now, though, archaeologists have never had it better. Enough sites
from all time periods still exist in most parts of the world to
enable researchers to address the full range of questions. Travel
to these sites is easier and less expensive than at any time in
wasn't long ago that what we used to call expeditions required elaborate
plans and cost a lot of money," says Stanish. "You'd have one expedition
and that would have to last you several years. Now I commute to
Peru three or four times a year." New laboratory and field technologies
mean that once at the sites, archaeologists can collect exponentially
more data than ever before. With digital technology, researchers
can communicate their findings in better, faster and cheaper ways.
Stanish: "Historians will look back on this as a golden age when
professionals fanned across the globe to document irreplaceable
Gordon is a writer in Los Angeles.