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The Earth's magnetic field is a huge shield, protecting us against the bombardment of high energy particles. Changes of the field strength can influence the life on Earth and may act as evolutional sieve. Nowadays, the detailed mechanism of the magnetic field is still not yet completely clear, in particular the reversal process when the strength of the geomagnetic field is considerably reduced. However, there is an interest to extend the record of the geomagnetic field into the past and to combine the results with theoretical reversal  models. Lake, marine and continental sediments are often not reliable for an accurate registration of the geomagnetic field, because of delayed recording due to complex sedimentation environment and magnetic mineralogy. Archaeological material, however, does not have such implications and records the magnetic field more confidently, as the field recording process is different. Hence, it can be used for studies of the past geomagnetic field, but also as reliable dating tool for archaeological sites.

Many areas in the European Union (EU) are undergoing rapid economic expansion, inevitably involving the loss of our shared cultural heritage. Archaeological sites are often destroyed due to present day construction projects (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Excavation of a Hellenistic pottery kiln at Katerini (northern Greece), during the
construction of the new motorway Athens-Thessaloniki, 2003 (photograph by E. De  Marco).

Archaeological materials provide an irreplaceable record of the direction and intensity of the Earth's magnetic field in the past, using archaeomagnetic studies. At present, such records within Europe are irregular in both space and time. Some countries recognise the importance of such archaeologically based information, but wide variations exist in measures to retrieve and preserve such data, hindered by the lack of a skilled workforce.