In the year of the 25th anniversary of the European Association of Archaeologists (EAA), the 21st European Archaeological Heritage Prize has been awarded to Osman Kavala, Turkish philanthropist and heritage protector, in the individual category, and to the Pays Basque “Fundación Catedral Santa María in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain”, in the institutional category. The prizes were announced on Wednesday, September 4, at the Opening Ceremony of the 25th Annual Meeting of the EAA, in Bern (Switerzland).

The EAA considers that the winners of this year’s prize both make an unassailable case for the exceptional use of their scientific and technical backgrounds for the purpose of promoting the educational and social values of our shared heritage.

Dr. Franco Nicolis, head of the Heritage Prize Award, says: "They both clearly show not only how heritage can impact management policies, tourism and regional renewal, but also the life of those living in difficult conditions or who are minorities. They both strengthen an ideal of using cultural heritage to promote civil society and democracy, to undertake actions that promote respect for diversity and cooperation between people." An idea that is remarked by Prof. Felipe Criado-Boado, President of the European Association of Archaeologists, who stated that “The EAA is an European organisation with a global reach with more than 2500 members from about 70 countries. EAA is strongly committed to promoting European values and to the use of Archaeology and Archaeological Heritage to build an inclusive reading of our past and present that can support an inclusive future for all European societies. In the year of our 25th anniversary we are proud to celebrate the work and achievements of our prize winners, Osman Kavala and Foundation “Santa María Catedral”. They exemplify the policy of EAA as set out in the Bern Statement on “Archaeology and the Future of Democracy” that EAA will discuss in its 2019 Annual Meeting in Bern”.

Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala is awarded the European Archaeological Heritage Prize 2019 (individual category)

Osman Kavala (*1957), an entrepreneur and patron, is awarded the European Archaeological Heritage Prize 2019 in recognition of his dedicated and untiring promotion of knowledge, protection and preservation of endangered cultural heritage in Turkey. He has been held in prison since October 2017 without conviction of any crime.

For Osman Kavala, a key value of heritage is its ability to underpin the value of cultural diversity as a source of social and economic well-being. This has led him to promote cultural heritage projects of importance for the history of minority cultures and, in particular, that of the Armenian people.

Despite the absence of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Armenia and in a context of significant political sensitivities, the dedicated heritage diplomacy of Osman Kavala made it possible for Turkish and Armenian experts and scientists to work together for the protection and preservation of some of the most important medieval monuments of Armenian culture in Turkey. This collaboration is an important context for the 2016 inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list of the site of Ani.

The associations and foundations which Kavala supports, have promoted the protection and preservation of important examples of the rich cultural heritage of Turkey and have also involved local communities. This brought opportunities for economic development in marginal areas, sometimes distant from the main centres of economic and tourist growth and enhanced the local population’s understanding and pride in their cultural heritage and its origins.

In addition to his work for the cultural heritage of the Armenians, Osman Kavala has also promoted the heritage of other minorities who, over the centuries, have left clear traces of their presence in what is now Turkey: Greeks, Syrians, Kurds, Jews and Georgians.

Another good example of Osman Kavala's work is the production of bilingual educational materials that highlight the cultural heritage in Turkey and Syria for Syrian children, now refugees in Turkey to make them proud of where they come from.

Osman Kaval has sought to address the unmet needs of members of society who live in difficult conditions and sometimes as minorities. He has promoted his own understanding that cultural heritage helps civil society and democracy. He has supported actions that aim to promote cultural diversity through cooperation between peoples. It is for this vision and the passion with which it has been pursued that Osman Kavala is awarded the European Archaeological Heritage Prize 2019 of the European Association of Archaeologists.

Fundación Catedral Santa María, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Euskadi, Spain is awarded the European Archaeological Heritage Prize 2019 (institutional category)

The Foundation “Catedral Santa María” is the entity in charge of the restoration and promotion of the Old Cathedral of Vitoria-Gasteiz, one of the provinces of Euskadi (Pays Basque), in Spain. It was founded in 1999, by the City Council of Vitoria-Gasteiz, the Government of the Alava Province and the bishopric of Alava. Its work has been recognised by the Europa Nostra Award in 2002.

Some 25 years ago, the Gothic Cathedral of Santa María at Vitoria-Gasteiz, in the Basque country, Spain, part of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela a UNESCO World Heritage site, was at risk of collapse and required an urgent restoration plan. The Master Plan devised in the following decades by the “Fundación Catedral Santa María” proved equal to the task. The plan afforded not just the physical restoration of the cathedral but also became a pioneering concept in a holistic approach which integrates archaeological, architectural and historical research with educational, social, urban and economic factors.

The initial diagnostic survey undertaken by the “Fundación Catedral Santa María” with the local heritage authorities ran along two major axes. The first was a detailed structural and archaeological evaluation of the building addressing its present condition and its historical development: this brought to light new and unsuspected knowledge concerning the origin and (earlier than expected) date of the cathedral. The second occurred when it was realised that the remediation of the cathedral’s structural weaknesses would benefit significantly if its broader context was taken into account. This included the surrounding urban environment and fabric which was also materially deteriorating and inhabited by an impoverished population.

The restoration project of the Cathedral of Santa María aimed, and succeeded, at addressing these two dimensions simultaneously. The project adopted an unique “Open for Works” approach, rather than the works being undertaken in enclosed spaces, behind tarpaulins and scaffoldings, as so often happens. The restoration activities involving architects, archaeologists, stonemasons and builders followed. The motto “Open for Works” became a new and exciting way of dealing with heritage and heritage projects from a perspective that puts its public dimension and value in the front line. The first use of such motto started in the works of the Cathedral of Santa María. This is therefore the lasting contribution of the project that benefits the European and World Heritage Community.

The approach has enabled members of the public, local and visiting, to come and observe the site and the range of activities undertaken ‘in action’. At the cathedral archaeologists, architectures, restorers and technicians can be observed and their progress, techniques, workmanship and challenges over time can be marked. In the past 20 years as many as 1,750,000 visitors have sized the opportunity to visit this cathedral restoration project “at work”, bringing important economic benefits for local the community, its infrastructure and its commerce. It has also given rise to visible improvements in the town’s quality of life, including its social and symbolic presence at regional, national and even international levels.

It is for all these reasons: the scientific excellence and the results of this long-term project; the visionary use of its educational potential; the impact it has had in terms of urban management policy, tourism and regional renewal, that the “Fundación Catedral Santa María” at Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain, is awarded the 2019 institutional European Heritage Prize of the European Association of Archaeologists.