Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

2014 Edition
| Editors: Claire Smith

Frozen Conditions: Preservation and Excavation

  • Anne M. JensenEmail author
  • Glenn W. Sheehan
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-0465-2_492


Frozen sites can provide unique opportunities to understand the full range of a people’s material culture. From frozen bodies to wooden structures to faunal remains and intact multicomponent artifacts, these sites provide unparalleled opportunities for cultural insights. Excavation has special challenges, including the need for multiple specialties in the field, the typical need for a field laboratory, the multiple seasons to allow the site to thaw, and the extraordinary logistical costs. Global warming increases the challenges.


There are various types of sites and contexts that frequently involve long-term frozen conditions. There are some differences among them, which can influence preservation conditions and determine choices for excavation techniques. These include permafrost, cold dry sites (polar or alpine), ice patches, and glaciers. About one-quarter of the Earth’s land area carries permafrost. Where continuous, it is typically hundreds of meters deep....

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Further Reading

  1. Lee, C.M. 2010. Ice patch archaeology. US. National Park Service.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UIC Science LLCBarrowUSA
  2. 2.Barrow Arctic Science Consortium (BASC)BarrowUSA