EAA 2023: Session #307

Title & Content

Contradictions or Complementarities? The Scientific Significance of Rescue Excavations and Their Implications for Archaeological Research
Thanks to the successful enforcement of European conventions as well as the gradual upgrading of national monument protection laws after 1990, heritage services have gained unprecedented possibilities to save threatened monuments - be it through their conservation, their preservation or their documentation through excavations.
As result, the number of large-scale excavations paid for by polluters has increased considerably in recent years. They provide us with an enormous increase in knowledge that frequently leads to new and unexpected results that permanently change our understanding of the past. They are paradigm shifting or at least significantly boost knowledge, and, at least in part, they occur by chance! In this respect, such large-scale excavations, give us an opportunity to reach beyond entrenched patterns of thought, and beyond circular arguments.
At the same time, a general decline in archaeological funding can be observed, resulting in a shortage of teaching staff and research funding at many university departments. This leads to a decreasing availability of local expertise and it is becoming increasingly difficult to organise excavations for research and teaching, which can then per se only be small-scale and thus rarely representative - especially when it comes to settlement and landscape archaeology, which needs a large-scale view.
Upon this background, we propose to address the overall lack of productive and lasting cooperation between heritage agencies on the one hand and universities on the other. The conceptual differences between large rescue or "preventive excavations" led by development work and small "research excavations" initiated by academics seems to be exaggerated, and the discipline, including university training, certainly benefit from their better synergies and integration. Ultimately, the aim is to reduce supposed antagonisms and to promote cooperation instead of confrontation, for the benefit of archaeological knowledge.
We invite to an open exchange of controversial views from all parties concerned.
archaeological knowledge, heritage agencies and universities, large scale 'rescue' excavations, small scale 'research' excavations, reducing antagonisms
Regular session


Main organisers:
Harald Staeuble1
Jean-Paul Demoule2
Håkon Glørstad3
1 Heritage Office of Saxony, Germany
2 Institut Universitaire de France & Université de Paris I, France
3 University of Oslo, Museum of Cultural History, Norway


Abstract book ISBN:
These abstracts are part of this session: