Transnational outreach: Presenting the BalticRIM-Project at the 24th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists (E.A.A.)
The paper, entitled “BalticRIM: A New European Project for the Integration of the Baltic Sea's Underwater Cultural Heritage in Maritime Spatial Planning”, formed part of the overall session theme “Archaeology and the European Year of Cultural Heritage” and its sub-session “From Strategies to Practice in the Protection and Promotion of Archaeological Landscapes”. The session offered a direct comparison to other transnational initiatives, especially the INTERREG-funded Iron Age Danube Project, which deals with similar topics as the BalticRIM-Project.
One of the recurring themes was the problem of implementing the heritage protection laws, which – in practice – still do not always prevent archaeological sites from being looted or destroyed. A key solution was identified by public outreach campaigns, to raise awareness by active public engagement and the involvement of the local communities, while laying the groundwork for a heritage-based tourism.
The initiatives were of varying success, ranging from total disinterest of the local population and scepticism to projects initiated by arms of the government, to a genuine appreciation for the work of the archaeologists, fostering interest for the prehistoric ancestors and resulting in an Iron Age “branding” of the region, like a “Hallstatt Culture menu” as offered by a local restaurant, based on the dietary patters from archaeological sites.
A similar pro-active approach is taken by several BalticRIM project partners, who seek to establish cooperation with the tourism sector and sport-diver federations. Several session contributors also highlighted the importance of surveying and visualisation technology in order to reveal anomalies in the topography that are likely to have formed part of archaeological landscapes. This approach by proxy data is required to insure a foresighted sustainable protection of cultural landscapes, rather than last-minute mitigation strategies through environmental impact assessments. The same issues as addressed by the speakers apply also to the Baltic Sea’s underwater cultural heritage, only the technology and methods are different.
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