01.03.2013  Open letter to the Federal Assembly deputies from people anxious about the destiny of archaeological heritage

The open letter to the Federal Assembly of the Russia Federation deputies:

We, the representatives of scientific community, scientists of various fields, employees of cultural institutions, museums and bodies for cultural heritage’s protection, participants of archeological expeditions, students, who have passed their archaeological practice, worry about the destiny of archeological heritage of our country, which is destroyed by predatory excavations. 

In last decade, illegal predatory excavations became practically the main threats for the objects of archaeological heritage. On the one hand, the most serious danger is constituted by professional “black diggers”, whose aim is the destruction of archaeological memorials for the purpose of ancient artefacts extraction and resale. On the other hand, we can’t underestimate the fact, that due to the commercial, “amateur metal detecting” (the search of objects from different epochs with help of metal detector) became extremely popular and mass during the last decade.  The latter tendency is extremely disastrous: annually hundreds and thousands of ascertained and overlooked archaeological memorials are damaged and destroyed by “treasure hunters” and “metal detecting amateurs”.  The found objects being the elements of archaeological heritage, get on the “black market”, settle into private collections and even are thrown away  (by dilettantes who undervalue their importance).  Excepted from the archaeological context, artefacts lose their main value – they stop being the source of historical knowledge and harm to the cultural heritage of Russian people.

The growth of the number of “metal detecting amateurs” over the last years causes disastrous results. In 2009, according to inventory of archaeological memorials in two districts of Novgorod region which were rather remote from cities (the inventory was carried out by archaeologists of Novgorod University on instructions of Ministry of Culture) it was ascertained that more than 25% of protected objects of archaeological heritage were more or less damaged by predatory excavations. Practically, all the known memorials in Novgorod outskirts were damaged due to transport accessibility.

During the last years, archaeologists of Novgorod State University in association with Department of Cultural Heritage Protection carried out the series of measures to control the illegal excavations and exploring of archaeological memorials. As a result of these actions (and follow up judicial trials) the great experience indicating the drawbacks in law making was accumulated.

Ministry of Culture has prepared the draft federal law “On the Changes in the Separate Statutes of RF (in part of prevention of illegal extraction and turnover of cultural treasures, possessing the archaeological value)”.  The Government of RF has introduced the draft for consideration by the State Duma. 

Proceeding from our common responsibility for the preservation of national cultural heritage, we ask you to support the given bill. Please use this link…

Yours faithfully,

Archaeologists of Novgorod State University