Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2019

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Quaternary and Climate Studies


Alice Kelley

Second Committee Member

Daniel Sandweiss

Third Committee Member

Christine Beitl


Archaeological sites suffer increasingly destructive primary impacts of climate-driven natural hazards, including sea level rise, flooding, and erosion. Action is generally limited to mitigation and salvage of immediately threatened sites, with little attention or forethought given to secondary effects, such as destruction of interior archaeological resources by inland migration of affected populations. The United Nations predicts a growing trend in resettlement of climate-affected communities from areas where in-situ infrastructure adaptations are not economically feasible, legal, or physically possible. While adapting existing urban infrastructure (e.g., abating combined sewage overflows) is a viable option in the primary impact zone (e.g. coastal areas experiencing erosion due to sea level rise and increased storm surge), other circumstances may require new construction (e.g., water treatment plants, waste disposal) in less-developed inland areas. Resettlement and construction will thus threaten cultural sites outside the immediate zone of flooding and erosion. These archaeological sites represent important cultural and paleoenvironmental archives covering millennia of human occupation, including information which may help improve projections of climate change. The scientific community must develop standard methods for assessing threats to archaeological sites considering both primary and secondary effects of climate change. Using Southern Maine as a pilot study, this thesis reports a trial methodology for integrating decadal-to-centennial climate change projections, socio-economic and demographic data, and state and federal cultural resource management regulations with satellite imagery to create a robust, user-friendly risk assessment methodology for cultural resources. This quantitative framework produces multi-scalar spatial tools to access potential archaeological resource destruction due to climate-driven population and infrastructure density increases during the period from present to 2100. The products are multi-scalar maps at the town and parcel level that identify and prioritize threatened interior cultural resources facing destruction by secondary climate change impacts prior to large-scale migration and economic development. Use of these data will promote cultural heritage preservation and ensure compliance with federal and state legislation. Key to this research is its open-access commitment; all information used to develop this framework is freely available, and similar data may be obtained to reproduce this risk assessment nationwide. This research will help communities and states create informed mitigation plans that adhere to federal, state, and local cultural resource laws, while enabling planned economic development to proceed.