An Introduction to Development-led Archaeology in Europe: Meeting the needs of archaeologists, developers and the public

Agnes Stefánsdóttir

Head, Department of Research and Communication, Cultural Heritage Agency of Iceland. Email:

Cite this as: Stefánsdóttir, A. 2019 An Introduction to Development-led Archaeology in Europe: Meeting the needs of archaeologists, developers and the public, Internet Archaeology 51.

As a contribution to the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018, the European Archaeological Council organized its annual Symposium on a topic which is closely related to the objectives of this initiative. It was appropriate to gather in Bulgaria, the country which was chairing the European Union in the first half of 2018. Development-led archaeology (preventive archaeology) has taken over almost all archaeological excavations in Europe. It is estimated that in many European countries between 80-90% of excavations are now development-led and in some countries this figure is closer to 100%.

In 2015, the EAC Symposium concentrated on development-led archaeology under the title When Valletta meets Faro: The reality of European archaeology in the 21st century (Florjanowicz 2016). The Symposium's three sessions presented the different legal and organisational models across Europe, analysed the practical outcomes of different rescue archaeology solutions and a final session focused on how to assure quality of research and ensure lasting public benefit. The 2017 Symposium of the EAC was also, in part, linked to development-led archaeology. Its title was Dare to Choose: Making Choices in Archaeological Heritage Management (Degraeve 2018) and it concentrated on the decision-making mechanisms and actions from mainly the heritage management viewpoint. One of the subthemes of the Amersfoort Agenda published after the EAC Symposium in 2015 (Theme 1. The Spirit of the Faro Convention: embedding archaeology in society) was: Know the public: analyse the wants, interests and expectations of stakeholders in society regarding their involvement in archaeology, preferably through interactions with these stakeholders. So in the 2018 Symposium on heritage management, the idea was to look at the topic of development-led archaeology from a different angle and encourage discussion between heritage management professionals, developers, archaeologists working in the field and the public. How can we meet the needs of these very different stakeholders and do we always need to? This topic was also relevant in view of the decision of the EU and European Parliament's decision to make 2018 the European Year of Cultural Heritage with the aim of raising general awareness and draw attention to the opportunities offered to citizens by cultural heritage. In other words, to reflect on the place that cultural heritage occupies in all our lives.

The Symposium lasted one and a half days (22-23 March 2018) and consisted of three presentation sessions followed by discussion, including questions and comments from the floor. The speakers represented different stakeholders drawn from professional archaeologists and cultural heritage managers, as well as representatives of the media and the public, speaking from a personal viewpoint.

Session 1: The archaeologists

The first session of the Symposium was dedicated to the archaeologists. What has been the impact of development-led archaeology on the profession? Are we seeing lower wages for archaeologists because of 'market dumping'? Is the science poorer? Has archaeology turned into a mechanical profession, with all the excitement and wonder gone? Who is really in charge and making decisions on what and how to excavate? How do we make sure that the quality of work is sufficient? Should there be a centralized (state) agency or is a regional office better? Or can we leave it to 'the market'?

Lyudmil Vagalinski discussed the juridical and practical effects of the implementation of a new Law of Heritage of Culture in Bulgaria which was introduced in 2009. Nadezhda Kecheva introduced some practical examples of development-led projects in Bulgaria and its impact on the profession and the quality of the work. Eva Skyllberg described how quality assessment and quality control of projects has become important in the management of Swedish archaeology. Rudina Zoto, Mariglen Meshini and Ilira Çela introduced the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) natural gas project in Albania. The pipeline starts in Turkey, goes through Greece and Albania, under the Adriatic sea and ends in Italy. Having such a big project has resulted in an increase of using scientific criteria in archaeological processes and has been a school for Albanian archaeology. Filipa Neto and João Marques discussed the history of archaeological research in Portugal and how the profession has evolved through the years with archaeology now ranking a low-income job. Petri Halinen, Marianna Niukkanen, Sirkka-Liisa Seppälä and Helena Taskinen described lessons learnt from having free competition in development-led archaeology in Finland.

Session 2: The developers

In session two, development-led excavations were discussed from the developer viewpoint. The 'polluter pays' principle and other models of funding development-led archaeology were compared as well as the differences on how large-scale and small-scale developers operate under the 'polluter pays' principle. How can we make archaeological research a natural part of the construction cost – and is it natural?

Jon Seligman introduced the Israeli experience with archaeology vs. development. Development-led archaeology is increasing there and accounts for c.70% of all archaeological research. Kate Geary discussed how archaeology can add value to development, outlining the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists guide for clients commissioning archaeological work. Máté Stibrányi and Eszter Kreiter described current approaches to development-led archaeology in Hungary. Anu Kivirüüt and Ulla Kadakas described how the 'polluter pays' principle operates within the Estonian heritage protection system. In small-scale excavations there, the National Heritage Board has tried to help landowners by carrying out the preliminary survey or offering partial funding. Neil Holbrook discussed client expectations of commercial archaeology in the UK and finally, Henny A. Groenendijk presented best practice examples from the Dutch countryside where the aim is to create a win-win situation for both farmers and the archaeology.

Session 3: The public

This session asked questions like, how can we justify that public funds are used to pay for archaeological excavations? Is research for the archaeologists' benefit and their scientific endeavours, or should we always be able to demonstrate that there are benefits for the public as well? Can we use the media to a greater extent to shape public opinion, since they are, in part, responsible for informing society about both archaeology and development? What is the role of amateur associations in building bridges between the public and heritage management? Marjolein Verschuur presented a survey conducted by the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands on the relationship between archaeology, the public and the national government. Gábor Virágos introduced the concept of the 'magic triangle' and how communicating archaeological heritage is a complex procedure where different types of communication is needed for different stakeholders. Kirsty Owen and Rebecca Jones presented how the publicly funded archaeological investigations in Scotland are changing. Zdeněk Šámal from his reporter's point of view, discussed how archaeology is presented through Czech media (specifically television). Finally Sigrid Peter presented a very personal citizen's view on public archaeology and heritage in Austria and how best to communicate with the interested members of the public.


After each session the floor was open for discussion and questions from the participants of the Symposium. I want to thank all who attended for a very lively debate where important topics were raised and discussed from many angles. I would also like to thank the session chairs, Barney Sloane, Lyudmil Vagalinski and Thor Hjaltalín for excellent time-management and encouragement of the discussions after their sessions. A special mention and thanks are due to the EAC's assistant Djurra Schaff for all the practical details that need to be arranged for such a Symposium, and of course to our host Lyudmil Vagalinski director of the National Archaeological Institute with Museum and his excellent staff. I would like to thank the EAC's president Leonard de Wit and the entire EAC board for the opportunity of organising the Symposium and for a very fruitful and interesting six years of being a member of the board.

The powerpoint slides of the EAC's 19th Symposium can be consulted online. A choice of extended abstracts of the EAC's 19th Symposium are also published in EAC Occasional Papers 14 (Stefánsdóttir 2019).


Degraeve, A. 2018 Dare to Choose. Making Choices in Archaeological Heritage Management, EAC Occasional Paper 13, Budapest: Europae Archaeologiae Consilium. and online at:

Florjanowicz, P. 2016 When Valletta meets Faro. The reality of European archaeology in the 21st century, EAC Occasional Paper 11, Budapest: Europae Archaeologiae Consilium.

Groenendijk, H.A. 2019 Farmers and Archaeologists: any shared interests? Best practice from the Dutch countryside, Internet Archaeology 51.

Kecheva, N. 2019 Archaeоlogical Map of Bulgaria – Transport and Pipeline Infrastructure Projects, Internet Archaeology 51.

Owen, K. and Jones, R. 2019 Presenting an Archaeology for Everyone: Changing our approach to publicly funded archaeological investigation in Scotland, Internet Archaeology 51.

Peter, S. 2019 A Citizen's View on Public Archaeology and Heritage in Austria, Internet Archaeology 51.

Šámal, Z. 2019 Archaeology in the Czech Media: Does anyone care?, Internet Archaeology 51

Stefánsdóttir, A. (ed) 2019 Development-led archaeology in Europe. Meeting the needs of archaeologists, developers and the public, EAC Occasional Paper 14, Budapest: Europae Archaeologiae Consilium.

Vagalinski, L. 2019 A Decade of Development-led Archaeology in Bulgaria, Internet Archaeology 51.

Virágos, G. 2019 Communicating Archaeology: The magic triangle, Internet Archaeology 51.

Zoto, R. and Meshini, M. 2019 The Trans Adriatic Pipeline project (TAP) in Albania: Opportunities for archaeology, Internet Archaeology 51.