Mittwoch, 8. Februar 2012

Hungarian Association of Archaeologists Recommends a Revision of Current Law

large scale rescue excavations at a medieval
site, called Perkáta, Fejér county, Hungary
(Foto: Gábor Rákóci, by permission).
The Hungarian Association of Archaeologists has elaborated an alternative to the current law on cultural heritage management which passed the Hungarian Parliament in November 2011. This current law is partial to economic interests and prevents archaeological rescue excavations by cutting time and money to an unrealistic level. Hungarian colleagues provide an English translation of an official Press Release by Association of Hungarian Archaeologists (Magyar Régész Szövetség).

Cultural Heritage requires an improved Legislation in Hungary
Interests of investors and cultural heritage protection are not that incompatible, but only  realistic and up-to-date legislation can protect our cultural heritage – this is the most important message of a proposal ”A unified concept of development-led archaeological service” prepared by the Association of Hungarian Archaeologists.

The Association of Hungarian Archaeologists, the only craft union for the archaeological profession in Hungary, have prepared this proposal as a response to the modified law passed by the Hungarian Parliament in November 2011. These modifications to the heritage law – specifically those concerning the time and cost limits of preventive archaeological excavations related to large-scale investment projects – are intended to strike a compromise harmonising the interests of economic development and archaeological heritage protection. The new legislation, however, not only undermines the protection of archaeological heritage – contradicting to Article 5 of the Valletta Treaty as well – but contrary to the declared governmental intention behind the law, goes against the interests of investors, and may also lead to legally debatable situations. Thus, not only do these changes fail to promote developments considered very important to the national economy but rather will place obstacles in front of and retard realization of these projects.

The proposal package prepared by the AHA entitled ”A unified concept of development-led archaeological service” is intended to reconcile the differing interests of the two sectors. It takes into consideration the previous legislation and present practice of Hungarian archaeology defined by the law regarding cultural heritage formulated in 2001 (2001/LXIV). The main principle of the law was that all areas of archaeological interest must be completely excavated. This was also the principle that determined development-led archaeological research in Hungary during the years preceding the global economic crisis, covering many millions of square metres of archaeological sites, thus, opening up new perspectives for the archaeological profession and scholarship in Hungary. Expectations concerning the research outcome, however, were not formulated in the form of unified professional standards, and, for a variety of reasons, only a fragment of the scholarly results has been made available to the public. On the other hand, the investors’ side complained of a lack of regularization concerning the ‘time and money’ aspects of the system.

The 2011 modification of the 2001 law was intended to act in the interests of the investors’ lobby, by setting up time and cost limits of preventive archaeological excavations related to large-scale investment projects. This, however, was carried out without any consultations with experienced archaeologists, making it impossible for the archaeological profession to work in accordance with – either nationally or internationally – accepted standards.

The AHA’s proposal package offers a much more favourable framework for each of the participants by protecting the archaeological heritage in Hungary according to a model approved by the profession, and facilitating the planning process of developments with respect to the issues of time and costs.

According to the proposal, the whole range of development-lead archaeological tasks needs to be standardized on a national level – something heretofore unparalleled in Hungary.

- A new form of Preventive Heritage Risk Assessment is one of the crucial elements in the AHA’s proposal.

- As opposed to previous practice in Hungary, heretofore based on the results of a set of preliminary research steps, developers would have the opportunity of avoiding previously identified archaeological sites. These results would also serve as the basis of calculating the time and cost requirements of preventive excavations as well.

- It is necessary to define the actual tasks and performance of clearly defined actors responsible for various phases in archaeological heritage protection work. These include preliminary archaeological documentation, trial excavation, preventive excavation, monitoring, covering the sites, processing the documentation and assemblages as well as assuring the social utility of the result.

- The AHA aims to lay down foundations for transparent and standardized pricing, geared as well to the actual tasks and performance of the actors.

- In addition, according to the proposal, activities related to quality assurance would be built into the system allowing the archaeological side to guarantee that tasks are carried out everywhere at the same levels of professional quality and within the same time limits.

The proposal was supported by a number of national professional organizations – the Archaeological Committee of ICOMOS Hungarian National Committee, the Hungarian Society for Archaeology and Art History, and the Pulszky Society – the Hungarian Museum Association. It has been submitted to the Ministry of National Resources, as well as to leading investors.

Besides the formulation of the proposal, the AHA offers their professional assistance to the Ministry for preparations of future modifications to the law as well.

For further information contact:

Dr. Gábor Lassányi


Hungarian Association of Archaeologists

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