Till recently, governments did not, in general, regard the planning of cultural heritage management and its corner stone (hazard and damage assessment) as of high priority. So it will come as no surprise that it has not been subjected to serious in-depth study or analysis. Nowadays, both national and regional planning, over a significant part of the world, includes the fields of Environmental Impact Assessment, Cultural Heritage Management and Hazard Assessment. The cultural issues are of high importance as they influence human behaviour, and thus environmental condition and change. But there is still a scarcity of techniques designed to deal with cultural heritage in Hazard Management, a shortage of published data on cultural assets apart from a few famous sites and a shortage of qualified people to address the cultural heritage sub-component of Hazard Management.
The four-part analysis of IESO has been proposed by Dr. Amanda Laoupi, for a case study referring to the area of Eastern Attica - Greece. DISMA was a pilot research project carried out by Eastern Attica Prefecture in collaboration with the Centre for the Assessment of Natural Hazards and Proactive Planning (CANaH) of the National Technical University of Athens, within INTERREG IIIC -NOE framework during the period 2005 - 2007. This technique discusses, also, whether this systematic framework provides a satisfactory analytical tool suitable for the assessment of vulnerability in complex socio-economic, geographic and cultural units, within which patrimonial assets coexist today.
Cultural landscapes are considered as representing systems. So, their vulnerability is defined as the degree of susceptibility to damage from hazardous phenomena. However, in the case of cultural heritage, it is not feasible to analyse the entire system with respect to vulnerability. It is necessary to disaggregate the system into a number of components and perform a detailed analysis on each one of them. Thus, the vulnerability of patrimony may be assessed using the social indicators preferred for estimating the community’s vulnerability to natural or technological hazards. In this case, the assessment should be carried out according to a four-part analysis (under the acronym of IESO):
a) Intrinsic parameters (describing the condition of the cultural asset),
b) Environmental parameters (describing the natural setting),
c) Socio-economic parameters (describing the living community) and
d) Organizational / Institutional parameters (describing various structures and functions of the State).
So, the multi-level understanding of change within the cultural landscapes, either faced as normal situation of time passing by, or as a result of hazardous events throughout human history, requires an extremely profound and complicated evaluation technique, which would be able to register all the possible factors that impact on the existence, function and appearance of cultural heritage units.
Natural processes (anaerobic environments, underwater preservation, dry conditions), local geological features (i.e. inaccessible karstic formations) and even disastrous phenomena such as flooding and deposition of rapidly accumulated sediments may preserve valuable geoarchaeological and archaeological information, as well as the cultural sites from overexploitation, degradation, pollution, and destruction. Mediterranean landscapes / seascapes are constantly changed through geological, hydrological, climatic, biological and biochemical processes.
Furthermore, landscapes represent multiple coexisting cultures, simultaneously expressed or overlaid historically. So, the same afore-described situation may bring one cultural feature/monument/site ‘against’ another. Of course, new digital technologies overpass similar problems, by offering a wide range of choices that register any possible attribute /characteristic/feature of the cultural landscapes.
Additionally, the cultural heritage may also embrace ‘intangible culture’, mentifacts, memories and various forms of expression (i.e. language, local traditions), fact that should not be taken seriously under consideration, because it is the most vulnerable and easily affected part of human civilization.
Another parameter of preservation and resistance against deterioration’s phenomena is the material which the monuments / cultural units are made of. Sandy stones, bricks, building materials of high porosity, loose conjunctions between static parts, are damaged faster and more irreversibly than the more stable materials (i.e. high quality marble), especially when they are exposed to repeated , coexisting hazards, such as earthquakes, interannual temperature & humidity variations and subsidence.
Finally, the status of archaeological services in many parts of the World, do not allow GIS registration of active excavational areas or diffusion of any official information concerning underwater sites, protection level of the cultural units and other archaeological data that are under a very strict regime.
Various forms of deterioration and damage on the structural elements of the Doric Stoa at the archaeological site of Brauron - Attica (field visit of 3/06/2007)