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Few losses of archaeological remains, but surveys show fresh damage


2.2 By 2020, a standard of repair requiring only normal maintenance will be achieved for a selection of archaeological monuments and sites.


Annual losses and damage to automatically protected archaeological monuments and sites in selected areas, split by cause of loss or damage
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Are we moving in the right direction? Published by the Norwegian Environment Agency

The Directorate for Cultural Heritage monitors the condition of archaeological remains in 16 municipalities in different parts of Norway. So far, three control surveys have been carried out in each of the municipalities during a 15-year period. The third round of surveys was completed in 2014. The results show that the rate of loss of archaeological monuments and sites has dropped considerably since 2005. In the last few years, annual losses have averaged less than 0.5 %.  

However, fresh damage is still being registered at many monuments and sites, often in locations where damage has already been registered during earlier surveys. People tend to overlook the value of archaeological remains that have been seriously damaged, and are less likely to make an effort to avoid further damage. This makes it more likely that damaged monuments and sites will be lost in the long term.  

Most damage is caused by activities connected with agriculture and with housing, gardens and holiday accommodation. The construction of infrastructure also causes damage.

Overgrowing becoming a more serious problem 

It has been known for a long time that agricultural activities can be a direct threat to the cultural heritage. In addition, major structural changes in the agricultural sector have more recently contributed to the problems posed by overgrowing of open landscapes. Farmland and grazing areas that are no longer in active use become overgrown with trees and shrubs, and this is one of the main reasons why previously registered archaeological remains can no longer be located in the agricultural landscape. In addition, the treeline is shifting upwards and trees and shrubs are encroaching on wider upland areas. This trend can also conceal archaeological monuments and sites, as is happening for example in Sortland (Nordland county). 

Damage that can be attributed to forestry activities or to natural causes has also increased in recent years. Damage by natural causes includes the effects of windthrow and erosion. 

Raising public awareness 

Many archaeological remains are in areas that have been used for housing or holiday accommodation. Gardening and other leisure activities are one common cause of damage to archaeological remains: for example, people may light camp fires or garden bonfires on such sites (this kind of damage is included in the category ‘housing, holiday accommodation, etc’). Some sites have been damaged when gardens are improved or have been used to dump garden or other waste. 

More effective tools and policy instruments are needed to raise public awareness of the importance of archaeological monuments and sites and how to safeguard them.