CULTURAL HERITAGE IN THE ANTHROPOCENE
During the past 70 years, the impact of human activities on the planet dramatically increasedresulting in major global-scale destructive consequences. Among those, the risks and damages to cultural heritage increased dramatically.
Despite the growing concern at any level and the numerous international conventions and national laws for the protection of heritage, thousands of archaeological sites and cultural landscapes around the globe suffered damages or destruction due to multiple factors, like urban sprawl, agriculture, conflicts or natural hazards.
We are thus facing an important global challenge, meaning to fully understand and mitigate the damages that humans have caused for decades and are still causing to the physical places of their past.
Blown up Bamyan buddhas, Afghanistan
WHY ANOTHER WEBSITE ON CULTURAL HERITAGE?
Recent years witnessed a proliferation of websites, platforms and other online initiatives aiming to call attention to the massive destruction of archaeological sites worldwide. Most of them have been launched with the specific aim of documenting the endangered archaeological sites, monuments and natural landscapes.
The twofold message conveyed by these initiatives were those of saving what is in danger and, among the “still standing heritage”, communicating what is less known.
Instead, the Lost Heritage Atlas (LHA) initiative has been dedicated to what is lost forever. The places of the past that have been destroyed by human and natural activities including looting, vandalization, bombing, the construction of roads and buildings as well as large-scale infrastructure such as dams.
We consider heritage in its broadest sense, encompassing natural and cultural, tangible and intangible. Each lost heritage place had its own history and relevance. Each lost heritage place was connected with other lost or still existing heritage places. While the destruction of heritage has a long history, at LHA we focus on the more recent destructive events, those that took place after the concept of "heritage" and its protection and preservation for future generations was already emerged and in most cases already regulated by law.
At LHA, we consider any lost heritage place as meaningful. We strive to go beyond the concept of universal and outstanding value, to address heritage places and practices at any scale.
The only difference is the one that distinguishes between more documented and less known places.
At LHA, we do not consider the heritage places and practices as isolated entities, but as a more complex system, integrating ancient settlements and the landscape with which they interact and shape.
At LHA, the relationship between people and the destroyed heritage is crucial to fully understand the importance of these places, items or practices. For this reason, for each case study that we consider, we dedicate ample space to the impact that its disappearance had on communities.