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Climate change is exposing ancient artifacts. Space age technology is helping save them

The wreckage of a WWII German warship is seen in the Danube river near Prahovo, Serbia, Monday, Aug. 29, 2022. The worst drought in Europe in decades has not only scorched farmland and hampered river traffic, it also has exposed a part of World War II history that had almost been forgotten. The hulks of dozens of German battleships have emerged from the mighty Danube River as its water levels dropped. (Darko Vojinovic/AP)
The wreckage of a WWII German warship is seen in the Danube river near Prahovo, Serbia, Monday, Aug. 29, 2022. The worst drought in Europe in decades has not only scorched farmland and hampered river traffic, it also has exposed a part of World War II history that had almost been forgotten. The hulks of dozens of German battleships have emerged from the mighty Danube River as its water levels dropped. (Darko Vojinovic/AP)

As the world comes to terms with the effects of climate change — droughts, storms, fires — there’s been an unexpected impact on archaeology: Artifacts, sometimes cities and civilizations, are revealing themselves.

Sarah Parcak at a dig site. (Ian Curcio)

Among them? Dinosaur footprints in Texas unearthed after a severe drought, World War II warships exposed in receding waters in Serbia, and centuries-old markings and etched stones resurfacing in the Elbe River.

With the new discoveries, archaeologists are talking about the safest and most ethical ways to preserve and study them. Archaeologist and Egyptologist Sarah Parcak teaches at the University of Alabama Birmingham, where she’s also director of the Laboratory of Global Exploration. She’s been called the “Space Archaeologist” — and she joins Here & Now‘s Scott Tong to talk about the future of the field.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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