Managing the Archaeological Heritage

By Cleere, Henry | Antiquity, June 1993 | Go to article overview

Managing the Archaeological Heritage


Cleere, Henry, Antiquity


The need for dynamic management of the archaeological heritage, aptly if somewhat ponderously described as 'a non-renewable cultural resource', was first recognized in the USA in the early 1970s following the passage of the Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act (still fondly known to veterans of the struggles that led up to its enactment as 'Moss-Bennett' after its sponsors in the House of Representatives). The message spread slowly across the world and into the consciousness of international bodies. To protect the threatened archaeological heritage there had to be strong doctrinal and legislative texts to form a framework within which strategies and programmes could be developed.

The original US term 'cultural resource management' (CRM) was found to be too broad in meaning for translation into other languages, and it is gradually being replaced, outside the USA at any rate, by 'archaeological heritage management' (AHM) in more recent documents and publications. But whatever the terminology, this new field of human endeavour is concerned with the identification, protection, preservation and presentation to the general public of the material remains of the past, of whatever period and in whichever region or country.

The doctrinal setting was provided by the International Committee on Archaeological Heritage Management (ICAHM) of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). ICOMOS had hitherto been the province largely of architects and architectural historians, but a successful campaign launched in 1981 by archaeologists to make their views heard in a respected international professional body led to the creation of ICAHM in 1984. As its prime task, ICAHM identified the need for an international charter comparable with the hallowed Venice Charter of 1966, which had become universally accepted as providing the philosophical basis for architectural conservation worldwide. Several years of concentrated work by a small group of archaeologists and heritage managers led to the formulation of the Charter for the Protection and Management of the Archaeological Heritage, which was ratified by the General Assembly of ICOMOS meeting in Lausanne in 1990.

Sadly, that vitally important document has had very little publicity since it was approved. Indeed, its publication in this issue of ANTIQUITY constitutes its first appearance in its entirety in any archaeological journal in any language. It focuses on the main areas of concern for the archaeological heritage manager -- protection policies that are integrated with general planning, the need for adequate legislation, the relationship of heritage management with economic development, the identification of each country's heritage stock, the study of that heritage, its maintenance and conservation, its presentation to the public, the need for professional standards for those charged with the work, and international co-operation. Since it is intended to be of universal application, in both developed and developing countries in every quarter of the globe, it is of necessity general in its language. Nonetheless, the broad principles of archaeological heritage management are clearly and firmly enunciated.

In January 1992 representatives of 20 member States of the Council of Europe signed the revised European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage at Valletta (Malta). This is a revision of the well meaning but largely ineffectual 1969 Convention, which limited itself to archaeological excavations and has been largely disregarded. The Revised Convention of 1992 is far more comprehensive in its coverage, touching upon most of the topics included in the ICAHM Charter. We are not printing this Convention in full, since it has already had surprisingly wide publicity among the European archaeological community. Instead, we have asked Patrick O'Keefe, the distinguished Australian international lawyer specializing in heritage legislation who was associated with its drafting, for a commentary, and Gustaf Trotzig of the Central Board of State Antiquities (Riksantikvarieambetet), Sweden, who was chairman of the working group which produced the draft Convention, adds some personal observations. …

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