European Archaeology Council Conference – Part 2

Our Director of Archaeology, Dr. Gareth Davies, reflects.

Just before Easter, I and my colleagues Kristina Krawiec (Head of Geoarchaeology) and Paul Flintoft (York Regional Manager) headed to the European Archaeological Council (EAC) Conference in Brussels. The theme of this year’s conference was Urban Archaeology and the Cities of Tomorrow, a topic that is particularly relevant to our work in York, Nottingham and Sheffield. At the conference, Kristina and Paul presented a paper that showcased our recent work partnering with AoC Archaeology on a new deposit model for the City of York Council. We were very pleased with how the paper was received, and there were some great questions from the floor. This highlighted to us how our experience of York’s archaeology could both inform and learn from the approaches that heritage managers are taking in other cities and states across Europe. 

Overall, we were all really struck at the strength of the EAC as a force for positive collaboration amongst practitioners from different states. Within this spirit of pan-European collaboration, several important and insightful guidance notes were launched this year as part of the Making Choices initiative. This included guidance on the Public Benefits of Development-Led Archaeology, the Value of Developing Research Frameworks and Digital Archiving. There will also be guidance forthcoming on articulating archaeological significance, and the Icelandic paper on this highlight how diverse those perspectives might be.

These guidance documents are particularly beneficial to us, working in England under a post-PPG16 model of commercial archaeology, which separates research and museums from archaeological investigation as part of the planning system. This contrasts with a number of European states – who’s archaeological investigations are sometimes much more clearly defined as contributions to public benefit (as ratified as an important required outcome of developer led work by the Valetta convention). At York Archaeology we are taking an increasingly strategic approach to realizing the public benefit of the work we do for our clients, and the EAC shows us that this requires us to take a European perspective to achieve best practice.

I sadly had to leave the conference before the final session, but there is a very useful summary of Paul Belford’s concluding paper here. This highlights the need for urban archaeology to challenge accepted narratives, explore cities in new ways and, above all, for heritage professionals and the wider public to be connected.