Montag, 10. Oktober 2011

The Archaeological Heritage is in extreme danger in Hungary

Rescue Excavation in Southern Hungary 2010
(Foto R. Schreg)
New legislation in Hungary endangers archaeological sites. Orsolya Láng translated information at the Hungarian facebook community ’600-ana Régészetért’ – ’600 for Archaeology’, which is posted here by permission:

According to archaeologists, a new draft law recently submitted to the Hungarian Parliament could mean the end of heritage protection in Hungary. The most serious point in the draft is that first phase test-excavations related to large-scale investments (e.g. motorway constructions, major state investments) would be limited to a time period of at most 30 days. Furthermore, any necessary follow-up preventive excavations could not last longer than another 30 days either. This would not be applied to simply to the sites themselves – which would also be equally irresolvable - but to the whole of the investment area!

Take motorway projects for example. Dozens of archaeological sites, sometimes ten or even hundreds of thousands of square metres would have to be excavated in only 30 days! The other seriously dangerous point in this draft legislation is the brutal decrease in the money that would be allocated to the excavations. According to the earlier regulation – still in effect in Hungary - costs of excavation should be a minimum of 0.9% of the total cost of the investment. The new draft legislation caps the money received by the excavation at a maximum of 1% of the investment.

Nowadays, it has been calculated that in a well organized investment, the amount of money spent on rescuing the site and finds normally comes to about 4-8% of the total investment cost. Thus, it is completely clear that if this new draft legislation passes through parliament, only about 13-25% of the archaeological heritage in Hungary can be protected. Another ramification of the drastic cut in funds is that institutions involved in excavation will be forced to concentrate on digging rather than documentation, conservation of finds, inventorizing, storing and publishing finds because of the impossible-to-meet time and financial constraints. There will simply be no money left for the for this equally vital part of archaeological work.

The new draft would also affect on-going projects. The parties involved would be forced to parties to modify contracts 30 days after they took effect. Nineteen directors of county museums and the Budapest History Museum (institutes responsible for rescue (preventive) excavations in Hungary) and the Association of Hungarian Archaeologists have sent open letters addressed to the Ministry of National Resources as well as to the prime minister expressing their deep concern about this proposed legislation. No one has received any answers so far. The president of the Cultural Committee of the government, L. Simon L.,– has said “I think it is a reasonable compromise proposal (…). I hope that economic agents will also support this draft” However, no archaeologists were ever consulted during the drafting of this legislation.

Addendum (12.10.2011)

Protest against Hungarian cultural heritage legislation

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