In March 2003, the GCI, the U.S. National Park Service Intermountain Region, and ICCROM organized a colloquium in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on the reburial of archaeological sites.
The intent of the colloquium was to gather together professionals from conservation and allied fields who have been involved in planning and implementing reburial strategies or who could contribute to a discussion of reburial as a method of protecting exposed archaeological remains. The colloquium focused on sites in wet-dry environments where fragile substrates, such as earthen and lime plasters and mortars, as well as wood, are subject to rapid decay. The 40 invited participants included professionals from the United States, Europe, Israel, and Mexico.
The colloquium was organized around four themes, ranging from decision making to technical matters. The first theme examined why and how the decision to rebury is made. Case studies on the Laetoli hominid trackway in Tanzania, Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico, and the Presidio in San Diego, as well as a regional study of policy in the U.S. Southwest, illustrated aspects of the decision to rebury.
The second theme reviewed the status of knowledge on the buried environment. The objective of the session was to provide insight into the reburial environment in order to inform the design of a reburial and to identify more clearly the research needed to achieve a deeper understanding of reburial conditions.
In theme three, a number of site and regional case studies were presented for discussion, with a view to elucidating how or whether the design created the appropriate environment and responded to the management context. Site and regional case studies included the Rose Theatre in London, Maya stucco friezes in Central America, Bandelier National Park in New Mexico, Catalhyouk in Turkey, and ancient Merv in Turkmenistan. A special panel on the reburial of mosaic pavements was also included.
The fourth theme explored testing and monitoring strategies. Past testing results were presented and proposals for future work offered for critique and discussion. Overviews of monitoring tools and methods and examples of post-reburial monitoring were also presented.
In addition to the sessions, there was a two-day field trip to Chaco Culture National Historical Park and Aztec Ruins National Monument, where extensive planned reburials have been undertaken over the last decade. The site visits were considered important to link theory with practice, stimulate discussion, and bring forth the rationales for, obstacles to, and methods of reburial.
The proceedings of the reburial colloquium will be published in a special issue of the journal Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites, in cooperation with ICCROM—as were the proceedings of the previous colloquium organized by the GCI, the National Park Service, and ICCROM, Protective Shelters for Archaeological Sites in the Southwest (see Conservation, vol. 16, no. 1). Together these materials will constitute essential references in these two pivotal areas of archaeological site conservation.