Session 2

EAC Symposium – Setting the Agenda: Giving new meaning to European archaeological heritage
Break-out session 2
Dare to choose
Group 4
Reading room (Library)
Chair: Bert Groenewoudt
Minutes: Karla de Roest
The overall feeling in this session (Dare to choose) was that the subject was perhaps the largest
challenge, not the 'daring' itself. It was formulated quite broadly, there being many topics that could
fall under its umbrella. As a result, the discussion took many directions. The most frequent topics
were the quality of archaeological work itself (how and what do we want to research?), how we
present the results and to whom, and legal aspects. The list of topics below is somewhat arbitrary,
however. It could just as easily have comprised at least six topics (quality, framework, integration,
selection, consequences, post-excavation phase).
The group members agreed that, whatever the topic, the consequence of choices made should be
taken into account. We have to know what the impact will be, especially in the long term. For
example, when choosing what to dig or publish (and therefore what not to), the consequences need
to be thought through in advance, from the start of the excavation to the final result. Which criteria
should our choices be based on? And how do we evaluate them?
To facilitate our research, we need standardisation, in both a practical and legal sense. This needs to
be extended to past excavations. If we want a good dataset to help us with our choices, we must first
turn to old unpublished excavations. Our dataset must be brought up to date before we can justify
our choices.
This still leaves the question of who chooses? The professional or the public, or perhaps choices
should be more closely linked to legislation? The discussion group frequently mentioned the need for
a broader view. The group opted for an integrated approach: inviting and educating the public to
create support on the one hand, and extending our research across national borders on the other.
We must explain and negotiate our selection criteria in a scientific and socially accepted way.
List of themes and statements
1. Open up boundaries between public < > scholars and in Europe
Results/Interpretation: why do we dig? How do we explain it to the public (or politicians) if all
we get are catalogues of finds and cultural layers?
Negotiate and break down walls (between private and public).
Collect data to write history, not just local research.
Different sites/excavations, different target groups (international researchers, local schools,
Get rid of our European boundaries in order to choose >> build a European knowledge basis.
Educational and investigation traditions should be taken into account when making choices.
2. Research framework: standardisation
Standards (contract, decipherable, specifications, enforcement). Demand the best and relax
when required.
Pre-selection elaboration of the professional (not just academic) background.
‘Caveat selector’ (selector beware). Limitations of existing knowledge. Known vs unknown.
Quality (of contexts).
Despite massive input in archives we still don’t have enough data for a lot of questions.
Procurement rules – directive. Any quality design system must be workable and legal.
Mechanisms for ensuring appropriate content of fieldwork specifications.
Could we standardise site selection?
Importance of adapting method of investigation to sites; not choosing one site over another.
Criteria for assessing significance of sites need to be developed.
When do we have 'enough' data?
Content of selection methodology.
Publish the old excavations before new ones.
3. Quality (upholding, safeguarding) and consequences of selection
Impact of selection: how do we handle information loss?
You are always choosing. Pre-understanding, research perspectives are important: you find
what you’re looking for.
Selection by whom? (academic, heritage management, legislation, local community, etc)
Who could give us the authorisation to choose?
Do we really know the consequences of our choices?
How can we choose if we don't know what we’ll find?
How can we really evaluate the unseen?
Research/interpretation has to be included.
Post-excavation as part of preservation <> legislative thinking.
Choosing involves taking risks. How do we determine what risks are acceptable, and who