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The Choice of Sites to Maintain
The choice of sites to maintain is easy, if only one suitable site exists in the neighbourhood. Often, however, a choice must be made between several options. A number of points are taken into account: the site may be impressive because of its structure or its location, or it may have a special position in the history of archaeology. The choice often falls on a site that is a typical representative of its region or time period. Maintenance decisions may also depend on the projected use of the archaeological sites in tourism or in education. The main factor affecting the final maintenance decisions are the available resources, such as the amount of funding and working days. The required resources and the aims of the maintenance plan must be in balance.
The Maintenance Plan
A maintenance plan is prepared for each maintained site. In addition to maintenance instructions it makes explicit the reasons for undertaking site maintenance, as well as the aims and requirements of the site’s future use. The plan requires an appraisal of the archaeological background, history, planning situation, and nature values of the site. The development of the landscape may be studied through old maps, photographs, and drawings. Old documents may also be used to study the surrounding environment. In addition, valuable information about changes in the environment may be obtained through interviews of the local population.
The maintenance of an archaeological site takes place in three stages: initial maintenance, follow-up care, and surveillance. Initial maintenance predominantly involves clearing the site from excess trees and saplings. Its basic premise is that trees must be kept away from the visible archaeological structures, since their roots may damage them. The restoration of meadows requires annual cutting of the vegetation. In the first stage a cord trimmer may be used, since it is the most effective tool for removing, for example, raspberry (Rubus idaeus) and meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria). Often the most time-consuming stage of initial maintenance is getting rid of the clearance waste. Waste disposal outside the site area can take place for example by chipping, burning, or composting. It may be sensible to include propping up or repairing the archaeological structures in the initial maintenance. The construction of parking areas and paths is also often included.
Due to the rotting plant remains left on the ground surface, the amount of nutrients in the soil increases in areas that have recently been cleared of vegetation. The amount of light reaching the ground also increases when plants creating shadows are removed. The increase in light and nutrients enhances the growth of saplings. The initial maintenance of an archaeological sites has been completed only after the area has reached a sufficient degree of openness and the growth of saplings caused by the clearance has been reduced.
Follow-up Care and Surveillance
In open areas follow-up care consists mainly of restoring meadowland. The available methods are cutting and grazing. Barren habitats require less effort in the follow-up, since the sprouting of saplings is less pronounced. A scythe or a mower is used for the cutting; cord trimmers are not recommended for follow-up care, since, according to current information, they may encourage the spread of plant diseases. In areas with valuable vegetation the cutting needs to be done late enough in the summer for the seeds to have matured. Since an increase in soil nutrients is not desirable, the cut plants must be removed. Follow-up care also includes taking care of the paths and other structures, monitoring the condition of the archaeological structures and the development of the vegetation, and general care for the locality as a whole.
The Cost of Maintenance
Initial clearing during the five first years of maintenance takes up 90% of the resources available for the maintenance as a whole. The first year requires the largest investment. The expenditure varies depending on the character of the site.
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