Protecting archaeological heritage in Eastern Europe
An EU-funded project has helped expand the practice of 'preventive archaeology' in Eastern Europe, contributing to the preservation of important heritage sites.
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Europes rich archaeological heritage is under threat from major development projects, illegal excavations and natural risks like flooding and climate change. Preventive archaeology which focuses on protecting sites as much as possible using non-detrimental methods has emerged to counter this peril. In Eastern Europe, however, the concept is underdeveloped, meaning that many historically important locations are at risk.
The EU-funded CONPRA project aimed to solve this problem by promoting preventive archaeology at universities and small businesses in Slovakia, the Czechia, Slovenia and Serbia.
Today, this new method has successfully been introduced into university curricula, including a joint Master of Arts in professional archaeology at the University of Ljubljana and the University of Belgrade. The MA is also on offer at universities in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina; Zagreb, Croatia; Skopje, Macedonia and Novi Sad, Serbia.
Preventive archaeology will help Eastern European countries protect their valuable archaeological heritage sites for generations to come, says CONPRA project coordinator Milan Hornak, director of private archaeological company VIA MAGNA in Slovakia. We hope to see preventive archaeology as popular in Eastern European countries as it is in countries like the UK, Ireland, Spain and Italy.
Excavate only when necessary
Preventive archaeology is set out in the 1992 Convention on the Protection of Archaeological Heritage signed by almost all European countries. The agreement which recommends practical measures designed to protect sites including excavating only in cases where archaeological heritage is threatened states that archaeological sites are a non-renewable source of knowledge about human history that should be preserved.
In its quest to develop this new approach to archaeology in Eastern Europe, CONPRA researchers worked with businesses and universities in Slovakia, the Czechia, Slovenia and Serbia. They trained students and entrepreneurs in preventive archaeological research skills and recording using the latest digital technologies.
Researchers introduced 3D modelling, remote sensing and other forms of virtual archaeology all non-intrusive methods that can be carried out without excavating and potentially damaging sites.
During the project, students and researchers documented Bratislava Castle in Slovakia, a medieval church in Jasenica, Slovakia, the Duvno basin in Bosnia and the coastline of the northern Adriatic.
They used 3D laser scanning and 3D photogrammetry to build high-quality models of the sites with rich colours and textures. The models were then included in exhibitions for the public and documented for local authorities.
Success in Serbia
The project was particularly effective in Serbia, a country with a very underdeveloped private archaeology sector. Here, CONPRA researchers introduced archaeology students to techniques including LIDAR a measuring method using laser light, as well as aerial surveying, 3D digital recording and modelling.
CONPRA also developed an open-source system for data management in archaeology called Archaeopax, and four archaeology-related manuals on 3D digital recording of sites, using aerial photography and LIDAR, managing large data sets, and virtual reconstructions and computer visualisations.
The project received funding through the EUs Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions programme.