The symposium is entitled “Development-led Archaeology in Europe. Meeting the Needs of Archaeologists, Developers and the Public", and has taken taken place on March 21-23, 2017, in the Arena di Serdica hotel in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia.
It has brought together leading experts from the European Archaeological Council (Europae Archaeologiae Consilium) from about a dozen European countries as a contribution to the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018. It has also occurred as Bulgaria is holding the rotating Presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2018.
The Europae Archaeologiae Consilium (EAC) was founded in 1999. It is a democratic network of heads of national institutions responsible for the management of the archaeological heritage in the Council of Europe member states, reminds the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia, part of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
The EAC is dedicated to the exchange of information between its members about standards and best practice related to heritage management, the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia notes.
Experts from about a dozen European countries have taken part in the EAC symposium in Sofia. Photo: TV grab from BNT
Bulgaria has become the 30th member of the European Archaeological Council. The other 29 members are: Austria, Albania, Belgium, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the UK.
It is notable that the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia was entrusted with hosting the annual symposium of the EAC even before Bulgaria was technically admitted as a member of the Council.
The 19th annual symposium of the European Archaeological Council has tackled the issues stemming from the diverse legislation and practices in the European countries when it comes to cultural heritage protection and development-led archaeology. Countries such as Finland, Hungary, and Portugal are said to be facing serious issues in that regard.
“At some point, it boils down to destruction of archaeological sites because private companies struggle to win [public procurement] tenders. In order to do that, they often lower the prices extremely, and as a result they are unable to follow the proper [archaeological research] procedures," says Assoc. Prof. Lyudmil Vagalinski, Director of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia, as cited by BNT.
“For instance, they [the private contractors] are forced to complete them in 30 days, regardless of how large the [archaeological] site might be," he notes.
It is pointed out that many of the European countries are trying to return to a more centralized model of cultural heritage management.
Bulgaria, which has fallen behind with respect to the liberalization in that regard in recent years, is now said to be benefiting in a way from happening to lag behind.
“You’ve got good control over archaeology by the state, and you’ve got lots of discoveries. Bulgaria is proud of its past, and you should be very careful," says the President of the European Archaeological Council, Leonard de Wit, who is Head of Strategy and International Affairs at the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands.
“When we’re talking about archaeology, modern-day borders are not relevant. I come from the Netherlands. Half of the Netherlands was part of the Roman Empire, Bulgaria was as well. So we have a common past," he adds, commenting on the need for some common general rules, regardless of how different models of the European countries might be when it comes to cultural heritage protection in development-led archaeology.
Assoc. Prof. Lyudmil Vagalinski, Director of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia, during the EAC symposium. Photo: TV grab from BNT
EAC President Leonard de Wit during the EAC symposium in Sofia. Photo: TV grab from BNT