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Archaeology: Reburial

Reburial is the reinterment of human remains that are discovered and excavated during an archaeological dig. Reburial is undertaken in instances in which it is more practical to save archaeological objects discovered during excavations as opposed to discarding them, or when a strict time frame prevents a thorough investigation of the findings located in a specific archaeological site.

In reburial, a waterlogged storage area that is comparable to a regular museum storage area is constructed in order to house the archaeological objects marked for reburial. After these findings are documented as thoroughly as possible, a trench is dug from the bottom of the sea, into which the objects are then placed. The trench is subsequently filled with sand, or sediment, or a combination of both of these materials, in order to create an anaeorobic (oxygen-free) storage space, which helps to preserve the objects as questions as best as possible. The location in which the trench is buried is then recorded.

Reburial is a process that is especially important to underwater archaeology, which does not always offer the possibility of a comprehensive analysis of archaeological findings. In addition, reburial is often undertaken in cases where the cost of conserving all of the materials excavated during a dig would dramatically deplete the economic resources of the archaeological investigation as a whole and would therefore compromise the quality of the research. This is particularly true in the case in salvage archaeology, in which the majority of the archaeological site is typically excavated in a brief period of time. Reburial is also often used as an archaeological tool in other circumstances when conservation options available to archaeologists are limited due to external reasons.

One common disadvantage associated with this archaeological process is that the human remains slotted for reburial are not sufficiently evaluated in order to contribute significantly to academic research. Also, in some instances, groups have called for the reburial of human remains that are included in museum exhibitions, due to ethical reasons.

However, one important advantage associated with the method of archaeological reburial is that it enables the preservation of archaeological objects that would otherwise likely be damaged or destroyed. As such, reburial remains an important archaeological tool that enables archaeologists to preserve human remains, particularly in situations, which would otherwise limit their preservation, thereby hindering archaeological research and development, as well as the understanding of a particular time and culture.

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