EUROPEAN ARCHAEOLOGICAL HERITAGE PRIZE 2013
The 15th European Archaeological Heritage Prize has been awarded to M. Daniel Thérond (former Head of Department of the Culture, Heritage and Diversity Department, Council of Europe) and Professor Vincent Gaffney.
Daniel Thérond has been a crucial initiator and the central figure behind the set of cultural heritage conventions that over the years have been written under the auspices of the Council of Europe. The conventions have had a profound effect on all archaeologists working throughout Europe and beyond.
Daniel Thérond was instrumental in identifying and promoting a political desire to expand Europe’s role in cultural heritage, recognising the power and potential of forging links between cultural heritage and other social and political agendas. He was one of the key proponents of the need to re-situate people, rather than buildings or monuments at the centre of heritage.
Daniel Thérond convened an international group of leading archaeologists to draft the Valetta Convention, and ensured that the finished convention remained true to the far-reaching principles espoused at the outset of the process, at the same time as remaining relentlessly practical and realistic. This ensured that the convention was capable of translation into and application under the very wide range of different legal, economic, and political systems current throughout the whole of Europe
Daniel Thérond was one of the originators of the application of landscape-wide considerations to cultural heritage. This ultimately led to the European Landscape Convention (Florence Convention), which encouraged public authorities to adopt policies and measures for protecting, managing and planning landscapes throughout Europe.
Daniel Thérond has never lost sight of the critical importance of expressing different cultural identities in the context of establishing a European identity, which is the sum of co-existing traditions, as well as recognising the common responsibility in Europe for the heritage of all communities. He recognised the importance of such issues for the Council of Europe, for which key concerns are ethics, policy and democracy. The most concrete outcome of this later phase of Daniel Thérond’s work with the Council of Europe was the Faro Convention of 2005. A visionary and challenging convention, which showed how cultural heritage could contribute to a broad range of priorities including democratic engagement, conflict reconciliation, education, and economic progress; always with great emphasis being placed on the role of ‘people’ in heritage awareness and identification.
The importance of all these issues to current political agendas highlights Daniel Thérond’s foresight and prescience in ensuring that this approach was moved centre stage for cultural heritage, at the start of a long-term process which prompts everyone to take a fresh view of heritage in order to make the most of its potential not only in terms of short-term commercial benefits, but also in terms of improved quality of life for communities in a more human and increasingly creative Europe.
For this truly momentous contribution to European archaeology and heritage management Daniel Thérond is awarded the European Heritage Prize.
The 2013 award recognises the contribution of Vincent Gaffney through the North Sea Palaeolandscapes Project to European and world heritage. Prior to this project the Late Pleistocene and Holocene landscapes of the majority of the coastal shelves of Europe were largely terra incognita. The results of research at Birmingham have demonstrated that the vast landscapes that lie hidden beneath the sea can be explored using available commercial data acquired for mineral prospection. However, at the moment of their rediscovery these unique landscapes are increasingly at risk from offshore development, including the rush for renewable energy sources. Despite this, this unique project demonstrates that the coastal shelves can now be appreciated as unique historic landscapes that are preserved at a supranational scale. For the first time they can now be explored and managed as cultural and heritage assets.
The implications of this research are significant at a global level. Appreciation of the scale and nature of the North Sea landscapes will undoubtedly result in significant changes in our understanding of the settlement archaeology of Northwest Europe. However, the results also demonstrate, dramatically, that European archaeology is able to add significantly to the international debate on climate change and sea level rise. The project is a timely reminder that modern man has endured catastrophic change in the past that implicated the permanent loss of immense areas of habitable land. Finally, the work in the North Sea supports the development of similar projects elsewhere in the world where comparable, unexplored, landscapes also exist. Examples include the Bering and Sunda Straits, and mapping in these areas will add to the important debates on colonisation of the Americas and early settlement in south East Asia and Australia.
The contribution of the North Sea Palaeolandscape Project with its disseminations and with its related projects elsewhere is truly unique. No comparable project exists and the results of the project are of global importance. The contribution of Vincent Gaffney and the project to world archaeology is therefore recognised with the award of the European Archaeological Heritage Prize.