Campus News

Archaeologist discusses need to preserve archaeological assets

Suzanne Pilaar Birch, associate professor of archaeology and geography in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, spoke with CapRadio about preserving human history.

In a discussion about major archaeological advances in 2021, Birch discussed a paper published in Nature about footprint analysis of early hominin species. The footprints were analyzed first to be an animal species, potentially a bear, but after further investigation more likely resembled an early hominin, making it the oldest evidence of bipedal locomotion. This means this is the first example of walking on two legs by humans.

Pilaar Birch argues that this is the perfect example of the need for preservation of archaeological assets so analysis like this can be conducted.

“This was work that was done 50 years ago,” Pilaar Birch said, “[But] the casts that had been made from this trackway had actually been lost.”

While it may be a budget problem more than anything else, many institutions do not have proper data preservation and aggregation systems, meaning large findings like this could get lost.

“It’s definitely an area that we’re seeing a lot of advancement and the National Science Foundation is very supportive and funding new database initiatives,” she said.