Tuesday, July 27

Spanish archaeologists get fed up with the destruction of cultural heritage | Culture

Spanish archaeologists are fed up. If someone thought that his work is like that of an Indiana Jones, among exciting discoveries, the image has nothing to do with reality. They are professionals who warn of the abandonment of cultural heritage, intrusion and job insecurity … so they have decided to give a shout through the newly created State Platform of Archeology Professionals (PEPA), an acronym nod to the first Spanish Constitution, because it includes a series of demands and because the first impulse for this group to be born was also in Cádiz, in 2018. Now its statutes have just been approved at a meeting in Bilbao, an invitation to be join the more than 2,500 archaeologists who estimate there is Spain. The Platform already has members in seven autonomous communities: Madrid, Cantabria, Andalusia (in Cádiz, Almería, Granada, Jaén, Málaga), the Balearic Islands, the Valencian Community (Valencia and Castellón), Galicia and the Basque Country.

Virginia Pinto, Cádiz spokeswoman for PEPA, was the one who, more than two years ago, infected her colleagues with the need to join. “A new generation of archaeologists has had to come, disillusioned, to draw attention to our state,” he says by phone. Pinto explains that most of the members of this sector are in construction. They are required for protected areas from the beginning to the end of the earthworks, whether they are works by individuals or administrations. “It seemed like an excellent idea of ​​the Historical Heritage Law, of 1985, to commit the promoter, who is the one who must pay the archaeologist, but it has achieved the opposite effect, because he cares little about what can be found and what he is looking for. he is the cheapest archaeologist ”, says Carlos Caballero, one of the spokespersons for the platform in the Community of Madrid.

Thus, the professional is in the works between a rock and a hard place, says Ángel Astorqui, a member of the PEPA in Cantabria: “A private pays you, so the regional administration considers you a sold because you charge from the promoter, and he believes that you are the Administration police ”. A situation that has led to “the majority of these archaeologists being false self-employed”, Pinto emphasizes.

Aerial view of the Roman villa located in El Cortijo de los Robles (Jaén).
Aerial view of the Roman villa located in El Cortijo de los Robles (Jaén).MONTSERRAT LLORENTE / State Platform of Archeology Professionals

Once the archaeologist makes his report of what is in that work, you have to ask for permission to continue with the work, “but until it is granted by the Administration, months may pass; up to eight in the case of the Andalusian. That makes us the weak link. We are always blamed for the stoppage, which affects many people who cannot work ”, he adds.

Caballero points further: “It is that you do not even need a license to practice the profession.” The Platform regrets that “any graduate, without the specificity of being an archaeologist, can participate in public calls to intervene in sites. That is why we want it to be unified throughout the country and require a degree in History in the discipline of Archeology ”.

The Platform regrets that “any graduate, without the specificity of being an archaeologist, can participate in public calls”

The other profile of the archaeologist is the one who works in known sites, where campaigns are carried out every year promoted by administrations or universities. The Platform has calculated that there are “some 10,000 archaeological sites in Spain, but less than 2,500 are declared Assets of Cultural Interest”, the legal figure of maximum protection of historical heritage. The rest are exposed to the lack of attention degenerating into damage or destruction. “Looting continues to be a problem and the worst thing is that they sometimes find applause in the population and in the press,” says Caballero. The Platform website collects painful information for them, like a Telecinco report in which “a journalist accompanied a looter to a cataloged archaeological site.” “During the visit, looting was encouraged.” However, Pinto admits that in his profession “it has not been known to reach society so that it becomes aware of the historical heritage.”

The archaeologist Carlos Caballero, in Madrid, last January.
The archaeologist Carlos Caballero, in Madrid, last January.


However, “the great threat is urban expansion, because archaeological heritage becomes secondary and can be destroyed,” Caballero emphasizes. The other major problem is the abandonment of excavated sites “that have not had a viable economic plan.” He gives as examples several “archaeological parks of Castilla-La Mancha, built at the beginning of this century; they were turned into museums and when the crisis came there was no maintenance, some recovered thanks to the municipalities, others not ”.

Astorqui emphasizes precisely the importance of local administrations, “which do not have competences in the matter, but are the ones who coexist with that reality. The case of Cantabria is an example that the Administration cannot reach everything that deserves to be conserved. “Here the accent is placed on prehistory because we have 10 UNESCO World Heritage caves for their rock art, but there are sites, such as medieval towers, that are unprotected, and it is an emergency. This winter several have collapsed due to bad weather ”. The Platform hopes that its birth will help end the archaeologist’s film vision. As Caballero humorously points out: “The reality is much more gray, the usual thing is that we spend a lot of time in an office inventorying small ceramic fragments that all look the same.”


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