Anglo-Saxon Cross

The European Charter for the Protection and Management of the Archaeological Heritage 1992

"The Valetta Convention"

Introduction to the European Charter

The European Charter for the Protection and Management of the Archaeological Heritage (commonly called the Valetta Convention) defines the archaeological heritage very broadly (Article 1). It deals with the inventorying and protection of sites and areas, the mandatory reporting of chance finds (all in Article 2) and the control of illicit trade in antiquities (Articles 10 and 11). It promotes high standards for all archaeological work, which should be authorised and should be carried out by suitably qualified people (Article 3). It recommends the creation of archaeological reserves, and requires the conservation of excavated sites and the safe-keeping of finds (Article 4). It follows closely current British practice (as set out in PPG15 and PPG16 in England and comparable documents in other parts of the UK) for the protection and recording of archaeology during development (Article 5) and contains provisions for the funding for development-led archaeology (again following closely current British practice) and for research (Article 6). Articles 7 and 8 cover the collection and dissemination of information while Article 9 is about the promotion of public awareness and access. Article 12 deals with mutual technical and scientific assistance internationally.

European governments are encouraged to sign up to the convention. In doing so thay are effectively stating that they can and will abideby the principles of the charter as set out in its various articles. The UK government signed up to the convention in September 2000, and it became law in March 2001.

The journal Current Archaeology has a large section on their website devoted to the Valetta Convention, and they problems that they see with it. You can find it a full copy of the Convention and criticisms of it on the Current Archaeology website.

The Charter in Detail

The following is a synopsis of the major points related to archaeology.

Article 1. The Archaeoloigcal Heritage

The archaeological heritage is that part of the material heritage in respect of which archaeological methods provide primary information. It comprises all vestiges of human existence and consists of places relating to all manifestations of human activity, abandoned structures, and remains of all kinds (including subterranean and underwater sites) together with all portable cultural material associated with them.

Article 2. The Value of Archaeology

The archaeological heritage is a fragile and non-renewable resource. Policies for the protection of the archaeological heritage should constitute an integral component of policies relating to land use, development, and planning as well as of cultural, environmental and education policies. Should be protected by integrated planning policies at international, national, regional and district levels.

Article 3. Protection

Protection of the heritage is a moral obligation for all human beings. It is common to all human society and each country should ensure that the funds are available for its protection. Legislation should afford protection to the archaeological heritage that is appropriate to the needs, and traditions of each country and region, providing for the in situ protection and research needs. Legislation should forbid the destruction or alteration through changes of any archaeological site or monument or to the surroundings without the consent of the relevant archaeological authority. Legislation should ensure full archaeological investigation and documentation in cases where the destruction of the archaeological heritage is authorised.

Article 4. Protection

The protection of the archaeological heritage should be based upon the fullest possible knowledge of its extent and nature. General survey of archaeological resources is, therefore, an essential working tool in developing strategies for the protection of the archaeological heritage. At the same time, inventories constitute primary research databases for scientific study and research. The compilation of such inventories is a dynamic and ongoing process.

Article 5. Investigation

Archaeological knowledge is based on the investigation of the archaeological heritage by archaeological techniques from non-destructive mechanisms to total investigation. It is an over-riding principle that the gathering of information should not damage the heritage more than is absolutely necessary. Excavation should only be considered if a site is threatened with significant damage (can include looting). In exceptional cases, unthreatened sites may be excavated to elucidate research problems or to interpret them more effectively for the public, but excavation must be preceded by thorough scientific evaluation of the resource. Excavation should be partial. Excavations should b conducted in accordance with the principles embodied in the 1956 UNESCO Recommendations on International Principles Applicable to Archaeological Excavations, and with agreed international and national professional standards.

Article 6. Maintenance and Conservation

The overall objective of archaeological heritage management should be preservation of monuments and sites in situ including proper long-term conservation and curation of records and collections. Local commitment and participation should be ensured. Due to financial limitations, active maintenance will have to be carried out on a selective basis.

Article 7. Preservation, Information and Reconstruction

Presentation is an essential aspect to the public's appreciation of sites. They should be conceived of as the popular interpretation of the current state of knowledge. Presentations should be updated frequently. Re-constructions serve interpretation and research, but they should be undertaken with great caution. Where possible they should not be built on the archaeological site, and it should be made clear that they are re-constructions.

Article 8. Professional Qualifications

High academic standards in many disciplines are required for the effective curation of the archaeological heritage. The training of an adequate number of qualified professionals should be an important objective for educational policies in every country. This education should take into account the shift in emphasis from excavation to in situ preservation. It should also recognise that the study of indigenous peoples is an important part in preserving and understanding the archaeological heritage.

Article 9. International Co-operation

International co-operation is essential in developing and maintaining standards in the preservation our common archaeological heritage in all parts of the world. There is an urgent need to create international exchange mechanisms for the exchange of information and training. International exchanges of professional staff should also be developed.

Selected Reading

Link to the ALGY 399 Sydney Jones Library Reading List.

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