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RESCUE ARCHAEOLOGY IN RUSSIA

A.V. Engovatova

Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow (engov@mail.ru)

Keywords: rescue excavations, methods of investigation, practice and legislation of the protection of archaeological resources.

Lately the rôle of rescue excavations and archaeological/cultural resourse

management in archaeology and preservation of cultural heritage has been discussed most vividly both in Russia and Europe (Quality Management in Archaeology… 2007; Report on the situation of urban archaeology in Europe 1999). In this paper we are seeking to trace the actual results of rescue investigations as well as the whole complex of methodological and practical issues faced by Russian rescue archaeology in recent decades. Preventive investigations on the sites of future development have been carried out in Russia for a long time. As early as in the late 19 th century archaeological excavations sometimes preceded construction (Vinogradov 1947, p .34). Yet the integral system of preventive investigations and excavations began to take shape in the Soviet Union in the late 1920s early 1930s. It was mainly due to large-scale development (the VolgaDon Canal, the Dnieper, Baksan and Perm hydroelectric power stations, the Moscow underground railway et al.) and special stress on planned economy.

A decree of the All-Russian Executive Committee and Council of People’s

Comissars “On the preservation of historical monuments” was published in 1934. It stated the main principles of work, prescribed rescue excavations of sites threatened by construction, and specified the way of funding rescue investigations. The “Special Committee for Works of the Academy of Sciences on Sites of Construction” was created by the Order 726 of October 16 1932 of the State Academy of the History of Material Culture. The “Directions for recording and preservation of monuments of material culture on sites of construction” called to involve in the search for archaeological sites not only specialists but general public including ‘socially conscious citizens’ interested in their country’s history.

Dozens of expeditions were sent by the Academy of Sciences to Central Russia, the

Caucasus, Central Asia and Siberia to fulfil these requirements. Museums and universities were taking part in rescue excavations, too.

In the 1940s 1960s the efficiency of the system of Soviet rescue archaeology

varied. Its successes and problems have been described in a number of papers (Munchaev 2004; Smirnov 2004; Engovatova 2009). Since the 1970s the volume of rescue excavations has been gradually increasing as testified by the number of permits to carry out archaeological excavations: more than fifty per year (Sorokina 2008, Fi g .36). To improve co-operation t h e Section of Construction Expeditions was created on the basis of the then existing expeditions at the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1972. In 1984 it was renamed the Section of Rescue Excavations and in 1988 the Department of Rescue Excavations (Munchaev 2004; Smirnov 2004). The expeditions of the Department have carried out large-scale investigations on the sites of construction of the Great Stavropol Canal, the Cheboksary hydroelectric power station, the amelioration, drainage and irrigation structures, etc. Their work has actually created a new corpus of the archaeological record for previously unexplored territories providing the basis for many a fundamental archaeological study.In 19821984 the Department organized from 20 to 22 rescue expeditions per year

(Afanasyev, Alexandrova 1986, p.123). It sould be noted that during the last decade specialized rescue departments were created at the Institute for the History of Material Culture of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg and at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Novosibirsk. This in itself is testimony to the requirement for this field of research in the framework of the Academy. Significantly, the share of rescue excavations carried out by the Russian Academy of Sciences remains relatively stable over last years while that of museums and universities reduces [Fig.1, 6]. This is scarcely surprising since the Academy includes specialized sections that have proved to be more resilient to the economic situation of the 1990s. They have succeeded in preserving and developing rescue archaeology and have repeatedly supported various scholarly and administrative institutions in their efforts at managing cultural resources.

in their efforts at managing cultural resources. Fig.1. The ratio of institutions carrying out rescue

Fig.1. The ratio of institutions carrying out rescue excavations in 20102011:

Voluntary organizations, Administrative institutions, Museums, Non-governmental enterprises, Universities, The Academy of Sciences institutions.

To assess the work of the Department of Rescue Excavations of the Institute of Archaeology and formulate its long-term aims it is necessary to evaluate the current situation of rescue archaeology in Russia. The share of rescue excavations has increased during the last decade. While in 19992001 it amounted, on the average, to 60 per cent of archaeological activities, in 20082011 it exceeeded 70 per cent [Fig. 2]. The statistics are based on the number of permits to conduct achaeological works. The figures are not quite accurate since sometimes a single permit enables the excavator to conduct investigations on several sites and some permits are not used.

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3 Fig.2. The share of rescue excavations in the volume of archaeological fieldwork in 1999 –

Fig.2. The share of rescue excavations in the volume of archaeological fieldwork in

19992011.

During the last decade the share of rescue excavations in the volume of archaeological investigations in Russia has approached that of European countries. According to the data of the European Archaeological Association (ЕАА) the share of rescue excavations in the Netherlands makes up about 70 per cent (van den Dries 2011); in Romania 7687 per cent (Bors 2011); in Poland 7080 per cent (Filipowicz 2011). Interestingly, the majority of the former socialist countries have followed the same path. Thus, the percentage of archaeological investigations conducted in the framework of scholarly programmes in Romania has diminished; while in 2000 it made up more than 90 per cent of fieldwork, in the last five years it amounts to no more than 20 per [Fig. 3]. In Russia this process has begun earlier and has been more prolonged. In 1984 70 per cent of archaeological investigations were funded by the government while in 2009 these amounted to 26 per cent.

Fig.3. Changes in the ratio of rescue excavations to scholarly excavations (percentage). А – Russia,

Fig.3.

Changes

in

the

ratio

of

rescue

excavations

to

scholarly

excavations

(percentage). А – Russia, 19832010; B Romania, 20002010.

The increase of the share of rescue excavations is related, on the one hand, with the reduction of federal financing of the fundamental research on the humanities and with the increase in construction and, consequently, in the number of rescue archaeological projects, on the other. Significantly, the number of permits in 1995 г. was 744 while in 2007, the year of economic growth and construction activity 1524, i.e. nearly twice higher. From the graph it appears that the number of studies funded by scholarly projects and grants has been relatively stable since 1995 ranging from 226 to 242. The growth has been mainly due to fieldwork related to construction. In 1995 there were 216 permits to conduct rescue excavations while in 2007 611. The number of permits to carry out archaeological surveys related to

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construction projects has been growing as fast as that to excavate [Fig. 4]. The volume of rescue surveys and excavations is directly related to the economic situation both in Europe (Report on the situation of urban archaeology in Europe, 1999) and in Russia (Engovatova 2010).

in Europe, 1999) and in Russia (Engovatova 2010). Fig.4. The number of permits to conduct archaeological

Fig.4. The number of permits to

conduct

archaeological

fieldwork issued in

19942009.

a form 1;

b form 2;

c form 3;

d form 4.

Where in Russia are rescue excavations most widespread? Let us analyze the number of permits to rescue excavations for each region [Fig. 5].

of permits to rescue excavations for each region [Fig. 5]. Fig.5. Regions having obtained the highest

Fig.5. Regions having obtained the highest number of permits to conduct rescue surveys and excavations in 20062008 and in

20092011.

It would be natural to assume that rescue excavations correlate to the volume of construction, yet it is only partially true. Significantly, the Tver area, which is not among thirty regions most succesful in construction, has been the leader in the field of rescue excavations for many years. Rescue excavations are prominent in the Irkutsk and Nizhny Nivgorod Regions. On the other hand, in some areas rescue investigations are negligible in spite of flourishing construction, e. g. in the Kaluga Region. The analysis shows that archaeological resourse management depends primarily on the activity and professionalism of the relevant local agencies. According to the law, these decide the fate of archaeological sites implementing rescue investigations, changes of construction projects and methods of site management. Local economic development also influences the scale of rescue excavations but only if the system of archaeological resource management works properly. In this connection the case of the Moscow, Rostov and Krasnodar Regions and the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District is particularly instructive. Who has carried out rescue excavations in Russia in the last decade and what is the rôle of the Academy of Sciences institutes in this process? In the 1990s rescue excavations were conducted by the Academy of Sciences institutesm universities, museums and cultural resourse management agencies. The then existing non-governmental institutions did not play a significant rôle having conducted less than five per cent of the volume of [Fig. 6]. T h e m a i n t r e n d of the two last decades is the increase of the share of non-governmental firms practicing rescue archaeology. It can be traced owing to the analysis of granting permits to carry out rescue excavations. The share of non-governmental institutions increased more than three-fold, from 10 to 33 per cent [Fig. 7].

more than three-fold, from 10 to 33 per cent [Fig. 7]. Fig.6. Percentage of institutions conducting

Fig.6. Percentage of institutions conducting rescue surveys and excavations in Russia in 19922011.

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7 Fig. 7. Percentage of archaeological governmental institutions in 1992 – 2011. fieldwork conducted by Russian

Fig.

7.

Percentage

of

archaeological

governmental institutions in 19922011.

fieldwork

conducted

by

Russian

non-

What is the reason for drastic increase in the number of non-governmental institutions? The fact is that presently state-owned and private scholarly entreprises are not enjoying equal rights with regard to taxation and book-keeping. The work of government- funded institutions has been hampered by the Federal Law-94 of 21.07.2005 “On the ordering of goods and hiring professional services for federal and municipal needs.” The law obliges government agencies to invite tenders for rescue excavation contracts. As a result non-government institutions that can reduce the price of work owing to tax reliefs successfully compete with their governmental counterparts. Non-governmental institutions can be divided into two groups. The first group consists of firms founded by professional archaeologists in order to avoid bureaucratic hassle. Their work meets all the requirements of archaeological science. The second group has been focusing solely on making profit. Its members often act as simple middlemen. Their low-quality work or its imitation results in destruction of sites, scandals and lawsuits widely discussed in mass-media (Belovranin 2012). When exploitation involves predesign as is the case with infrastructural projects, such asroads, railways, pipelines, etc., it is possible to conduct surveys from the earliest stages of planning and avoid impact on archaeological monuments and sites. In recent decades this practice has been widely used by the Department of Rescue Excavations of the Institute of archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Smirnov 1990; Engovatova 2009), which enabled us to save many an archaeological site. It is worth noting that even in the course of planning of such a complex project as the Cheboksary Hydro the suggestions of archaeologists about the construction of special dams for the protection of major archaeological monuments were adopted. The project of the road leading to Olympic constructions in the city of Sochi was modified as well. A Byzantine temple found near the Veseloe village in the Imeretinskaia Valley was preserved in situ and its in- place preservation and site management ensured (Armarchuk, Mimochod 2012). However, such protective measures actually depend on the free-will of designers who are by no means eager to modify otherwise convenient projects. Unfortunately, for lack of funds there has been a tendency to economise on

archaeological investigations lately. As a result instead of involving archaeologists at the stage of predesign designers often confine themselves to an archival certificate issued by a cultural resourse management institution. It is yet another negative impact of commercialization. A system of site preservation under conditions of large-scale construction can only be elaborated on legislative level. What should be the attitude towards the increase of the number of non-governmental archaeological institutions? On the one hand, large percentage of non-governmental institutions involved in rescue archaeology is typical of certain European countries such as Poland or Great Britain. On the other hand, archaeologists have vividly criticised the negative impact of commercialization (Demoule 2007, 2010; Filipowicz 2011). To summarise, it can be seen that a system of rescue archaeology involving institutions of the Academy of Sciences took shape in Russia in the 20 th century. The rôle of these institutions remains crucial even with the emergence of market economy. The graph of the volume of rescue research in recent years shows that they carry out about a quarter of fieldwork [Fig. 6]. We hold that a great advantage of Russian rescue archaeology is its close links with academia. The general system of scientific regulations, i.e. the obligatory applying for permits to conduct archaeological investigations and mandatory scientific reports on them, valid for the whole country, ensures unified methods of investigating archaeological sites and making reports. It applies to rescue archaeology as well. There are no simplified methods for it. A system of surveillance is only permissible for the study of late mixed deposits (Regulation … 2007). The mandatory submission of scientific reports to the Scholarly Fieldwork Council to be subsequently filed in the State Archives makes the information on all the surveys and excavations in Russia available to scholars. Unfortunately, the percentage of published materials is negligible owing primarily to the high cost of publishing, hence the suggestion of elecytonic publication of excavation reports. It is particularly justified with regard to fully explored sites not threatened by possible looting after the appearance of the relevant information in the media. In order to ensure prompt publication of the results of rescue excavations the Institute of Archaeology founded a series “Materials of rescue archaeological excavations” whose 18 th volume is now in press. Transactions of the scientific seminar “The Archaeology of the Moscow Region” mainly dealing with the results of rescue excavations are published annually. What are nowadays the immediate tasks of the Department of Rescue Excavations? These are methodical and practical issues and improvement of legislation. Complex areal approach to archaeological heritage management in situ in their environment becomes increasingly important. We hold that the creation of protected areas for archaeological sites and objects. Researchers from the Department of Rescue Excavations participated in creating such zones in the town of Zvenigorod, on the Rostislavl and Vshchizh habitation sites, on a series of sites on the Volgo Lake, et al. The Department also took part in the town-planning of the towns of Klin, Volokolamsk and Orekhovo-Zuevo. To multiply such examples, legislative support is necessary. It is important to ensure complex character and large-scale investigations while carrying out rescue excavations of archaeological sites threatened by construction. Such works are conducted on large areas maintaining high standards of field methods and involve specialists from varios branches of scholarship. Archaeologists are aware that besides artifacts and and structure, i.e. pits, burialsm walls, etc., occupation deposits contain biological remains, i.e. bones, scales, insects, grains, etc., which can only be properly studied by specialists in the relevant fields. The analysis of organic matters can provide additional information for the understanding of an archaeological object.

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Therefore only complex investigations produce adequate information on archaeological sites and their early inhabitants. As examples we can cite rescue excavations on such standard sites as the early medieval cemetery of Mamisondon (Albegova, Vereschinsky-Babailov 2010), Zolotoi and Panitskoe barrow cemeteries (Mimochod 2009), the Miakinino complex of sites (Engovatova, Koval 2007), occupation deposits of the cities of Yaroslavl (Archeology of ancient Yaroslavl2012), Rostov (Samoilovich 2007), Vladimir et al.

Thus, both world and national experience shows that rescue archaeology is an important part of archaeological activity. Scientific research requires financing while, given the economic situation in Russia, archaeologists have few opportunities, besides rescue excavations, to carry out large-scale investigations. The existing system of grants enables us to study the most important sites. Yet funding is limited and cannot ensure multifaceted study. Under the circumstances rescue archaeology is a source of permanent investment in archaeological science. The most important task of archaeological heritage management is to encourage the amendment of legislation pertaining to the protection of archaeological monuments. The existing laws are not very effective with regard to the protection of cultural heritage and do not conform to certain articles of international acts adopted by Russia. It is important to amend the law in order to prevent illicit excavations and looting of archaeological monuments by the so-called ‘black excavators’ (by analogy with black market) who have become a virtual plague in recent years.

Reference list

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