Definition

On line since lundi 14 September 2009 Updated lundi 14 September 2009
Preventive Archaeology

This recent discipline is an integral part of archaeology. Preventive archaeology is essential when the development of a site may alter or destroy valuable archaeological deposits. Developers integrate archaeology into their project making possible the discovery, excavation, study and, occasionally, scheduled protection of uncovered remains.

Preventive archaeology constitutes 90% of all French archaeological activity. There are more than 2000 interventions per year and 252,000 working archaeological days. In 2004, this required a budget close to 120 million euros.

In France, each year nearly 60,000 hectares -20m2 every second- are seriously disturbed or destroyed by construction work. On average only 12% of this area is subject to even the most cursory archaeological evaluation.

Preventive archaeology brings the great advantage of nationwide coverage. Occasionally archaeologists have the opportunity to examine vast uninterrupted surfaces covering hundreds of hectares (in the case of major housing or construction developments) or kilometres long (motorway and railway projects). Rural areas have until now been largely untouched with the consequence that sites are sometimes virtually intact. The complex history of old city centres is locked in stratified deposits sometimes metres high.

On site, archaeologists extract and systematically record the maximum amount of information, however insignificant it may seem, so as to build up the most complete picture possible of past ways of life. It is only after the accumulation of such data and its interpretation that a wider synthetic view of peoples and periods from the past can be drawn. The accumulation and study of detailed results from over thirty years of preventive archaeology have dramatically renewed and reshaped our understanding of the past.

Archaeologists bring major discoveries to life for the benefit of the general public through exhibitions, books and multimedia presentations.