, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 187-197
Date: 12 Oct 2010

Our disappearing past: a GIS analysis of the vulnerability of coastal archaeological resources in California’s Santa Barbara Channel region

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Coastal archaeological resources around the world often coincide with dense contemporary human populations and a rapidly changing physical environment. Projected sea level rise and urban expansion during the 21st century threaten to destroy much of our global coastal archaeological heritage. In this study, we adapt an environmental vulnerability analysis to quantify the threats of modern development and sea level rise on archaeological sites in California’s Santa Barbara Channel region. Using spatial and statistical techniques, we create a Cultural Resource Vulnerability Index that combines environmental factors, current and projected urban footprints, and archaeological site positioning. We illustrate the importance of this method for targeting threatened archaeological sites for mitigation and salvage research. In the process, we highlight the significance of coastal archaeological sites for helping better understand contemporary environmental and cultural issues, underscoring the need to preserve or salvage these sites for their significant research value.