Preservation by parking lot

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Does paving over archaeological remains successfully preserve them?

Thisisleicestershire co uk Mike Sewell

thisisleistershire.co.uk photograph captioned “Public invited to view progress in search for King Richard III remains Pic Mike Sewell”.

The assumption that it does is made, sometimes, when land managers have archaeological remains that would be expensive to excavate or preserver, and the land use they plan does not require digging, for example for foundations, ditches, or sculpting of the landscape.

Recently, two examples were in the news of remains that were sealed and preserved by land use that included paving over.

One is in a city in Britain, and the other is our state’s own Brunswick.

In Britain, in the city of Leicester, beneath a parking lot, in a series of trenches, archaeologists have found the remains of a church that was one of the buildings in a Franciscan friary complex. They also have located a skeleton that may well be the remains of King Richard III. (However surprising it may seem—yes, the British did lose track of the burial location of one of their kings, who died in 1485. Richard III had only been king for two years at the time of his death, from wounds sustained in battle.)

In Georgia, archaeologists have identified human remains beneath the foundations of the recently razed Glynn Middle School, right in Brunswick’s historical district.

Brunswick Middle School GoogleMaps

Google Maps satellite image of the school still standing in Brunswick.

Florida Times-Union reporter Mike Morrison in a September 6th article published online at jacksonville.com, noted that the SGA’s own Fred Cook said, “This was a Colonial cemetery from before Brunswick was laid out in 1771. They came out here and picked out this place to bury people.”

So, here we have two examples of later construction sealing archaeological deposits that revealed important information when later excavated.

While it is easy to argue that sealing beneath pavements should not be a primary way to preserve archaeological remains, is it an okay way to do so? When you think about your opinion of this, consider the costs of excavation and ongoing costs of preserving in place.