In this week's Newsweek column, Gerry Wait from the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA)'s Board of Directors talks to our CEO about working in tandem with a Senegal mining project, and the rich heritage their work uncovered.
‘Working on a goldmine proposal in Senegal, a colleague saw something on the ground and asked, “Do we need to consider archaeology?” At that point neither the mining company nor the Government regulatory agency were expecting anything like an environmental impact assessment to be done at an international standard.’
Gerry Wait, who is on the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists Board of Directors, explained that Senegal had only one archaeologist working in a regulatory capacity. He didn’t have the clout to get his government colleagues to do something as distracting from mining as archaeology. However, mining companies do recognise the need to demonstrate corporate social responsibility.
‘None of us really knew where it would lead. It had to be done slowly and gently to reassure everyone that the mine was not at risk. The first step was a walk-over: a handful of people for a handful of days covering 25 square km. It demonstrated visible archaeological sites on the surface.’
The next step was a more detailed surface survey: many archaeologists walking over the whole landscape collecting artefacts and marking out the sites. ‘You begin to build an understanding of the landscapes and types of activities that might have occurred there, but it doesn’t tell you the full story.’ That led to the third step, excavations at a sample of the sites.
‘The mine is now in operation, and we were able to create a narrative chronology for Eastern Senegal over about 2,500 years. The IFAN Institute in Dakar has mounted exhibitions of the materials.’
People around the world have become much more aware of elements of their own heritage and archaeological remains being part of it. For Gerry, ‘That’s a 21st century take on what have been two standalone mentalities of archaeology and ethnography for many years.’
Professor Andy Friedman, CEO of PARN
First appeared in Newsweek, edn. 13 March 2015
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