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Outrage at Hungarian government's 30 day rule
Outrage is sweeping through the ranks of Hungarian archaeologists in connection with a new draft legislation concerning cultural heritage protection.

The draft legislation was published by the Hungarian Parliament on the 28th of September ( (Hungarian)

For archaeologists, the most worrying section of the draft wants initial evaluation excavations - those which are related to large-scale infrastructure projects such as motorway constructions - to be limited to a time period of a maximum of 30 days. In addition, any follow-up excavation would also be limited to 30 days (as a complete project). To place this in context, dozens of archaeological sites would have to operate at the same time and tens or even hundreds of thousands of square metres would have to be excavated in only 30 days!

The Association of Hungarian Archaeologists sent a letter of protest to the chairman of the Parliament?s Cultural and Press Committee, L?szl? L. Simon and this was followed on the 3 October by the following letter to Prime Minister Viktor Orb?n, the Minister for the Ministry of National Resources Mikl?s R?thelyi and also the Undersecretary for Culture G?za Szőcs.

[INDENT]Mr. Prime Minister,
The Presidency of Association of Hungarian Archaeologists would like to express its anxiety connected with modification of the 2001. LXIV. law concerning cultural heritage protection in this independent letter.

In particular we are not in accord with the following part of the proposal?23/D ? (1) which states ?The term allocated to carrying out preventive excavation or covering the site, which is allocated by the assessment of authority...may not last longer than 30 days, except in those cases when the institution, which is responsible for the excavation work can come to an agreement with the investor to prolong the length of the excavation.

While we are in full agreement with the previous parts of the modification draft legislation (concerning prior investigation and the regulation of the test excavations) we cannot accept or support the second part of the new ruling concerning the maximum time allowed for preventative excavation.
Our protests this time are not about the effects on archaeology as a profession or about the interests of museums? but about the fate of Hungary?s archaeological heritage. If the time allotted to excavation is limited in this way, there will certainly be negative unforeseen consequences. What will happen for example if the prior investigation and the test excavation estimate that the investment territory will impact a 40 hectare site (as has happened many times in the past)? At best it will be possible to recover one or at most two hectares but the rest will be destroyed if the the investor and the excavating archaeologists cannot agree on how to prolong the length of excavation. It could also happen that that after 30 days the archaeological authority will be forced to stop the investment work going forward as it is already destroying the site within its recognized borders? Or perhaps archaeological authorities simply permit the site to be destroyed? This is even a more serious problem in the urban archaeology where there is greater likelihood of encountering archaeological culture layers of over 1 meter. Since all of us have thought about these questions carefully, it is clear that the ruling as it now stands is fraight with difficulties.
Clearly archaeology should not hamper the realization of investments and none of us desire that. We also agree that in the past there have been cases where the costs of some preventative excavations have spiraled out of control. Estimating an upper limit is necessary, especially since in some cases the parties did not do it. Nevertheless, it seems likely that once again a well-intentioned idea to reform problems in the system will have the opposite effect and end up causing more harm than good. Over the last few years the Association of Hungarian Archaeologists has offered a number of solutions to address these problems. We have drawn up a list of guidelines concerning both methodology and figuring out costs. These guidelines have been published in both book and DVD form. Unfortunately, nobody from the government side has sought us out, although we would willingly have discussed any and all these issues with an open mind.

Mr Prime Minister! In the last eight years we have seen painful attacks against our profession and the erosion of the cultural heritage protection law which was originally designed with a professional consensus in 2001. We pinned our hopes on changes begun last year. This ruling is therefore all the more absolutely unexpected not only for the Association, but for the whole community of Hungarian archaeologists and of the public at large. We would like to ask respectfully for your support in removing this ruling in this form from the draft legislation. Namely it poses a serious danger to our archaeological heritage which is obviously non-renewable resource of our history. If we are forced to select which sites to excavate and which must be destroyed without study on a given territory earmarked for development (that is, for destruction of our country?s past) or on the 29th day simply drop all the on-going work to finish the excavation we have to accept that there is a good chance of losing information of significant values. We mention only one example: we found a Hunnic sacrificial cauldron on an excavation that fell in the path of Route 67, near Balatonlelle ? in a place where no one could have predicted. There have been only 20 similar finds like this from over the whole of Eurasia that can unambiguously be connected with the Huns. Who will take responsibility for such finds going the way of the Seuso Treasure?

In contrast with some other professions, archaeologists do not take an official oath that they will perform their duties to the best of their abilities in the interest of protecting the archaeological heritage. They comply to a higher moral standard rather than a vow. They do their best to save archaeological sites and monuments for future generations. Fragments of ceramics, which often seem of little worth to laypeople, are but some of the rivets that hold our historical heritage together. Unexciting looking in appearance as they are, would anyone besides qualified engineers dare to decide how many and where to put the rivets that hold the structures of bridges together?

In pursuance of these thoughts, we would respectfully like to ask you to have this ruling removed in this form from the modified draft legislation. If you deem it necessary we are ready to engage in discussions personally, to thinking over the whole process and harmonize all interests.

30 September 2011, Budapest
Salariat of Association of Hungarian Archaeologists

[/INDENT] The association has yet to receive a reply.

The European Association of Archaeology (EAA)sent a letter of protest to Mikl?s R?thelyi stating that if the proposal is included in the new Act, there would be "tragic and irreversible effects" on Hungarian archaeological sites and common European heritage in general.

The existing regulations for the purpose of investment of at least 0.9 percent of the total cost of intended, according to a new draft for this purpose not more than 1 percent of the costs spent. The archaeologists agree that a compromise acceptable to all parties is needed, however, a call for a massive reduction in exploratory evaluation budgets and the unrealistic deadline of 30 days including both fieldwork and reporting is an impossible demand.

"These measures would be unprecedented in Europe: fundamentally contrary to the traditions of the continent's heritage, and would seriously conflict with the European Agreement on the Protection of Archaeological Heritage, ratified by the Hungarian state" - the EAA letter concludes.

Hungary has a wealth of archaeology, and with an increase in larger projects, this limiting of time, has far reaching consequences. Development is a necessity in the modern world, but must be carried out within a careful regulated environment. This draft legislation is not the way forward, and must be opposed by a strong coalition.

An example of single site in Hungary. Could this be done in 30 days and a limited budget?


More information:

A lot of governments throughout Europe could follow suit during this recession.
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