Archeology has been one of the great forgotten among the support measures for culture that the Executive has launched to alleviate the effects of the coronavirus. “It has been marginalized”, regrets Carlos Caballero, coordinator of the State Platform of Professionals of Archeology, a sector that employs around 3,000 professionals in Spain. This week a dozen worker associations around cultural heritage and museums sent a letter to the Minister of Culture and Sports, José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes, in response to that “omission.”
How is the pandemic affecting archeology?
–It is true that in recent weeks the situation has improved because some works that had been paralyzed have been started up, but in the survey we did in mid-April, 55% of the colleagues did not have a job at that time and all the interventions had been paralyzed.
–How is that return to work expected now?
–Well, there are three different cases. The first is that some of the public works that have been paralyzed are put into operation now. The second corresponds to private developers, who are pending whether they can be done or not and who depend on the initiative of each developer, who also understands that now is not the time to do fairly large projects. The third is all that work that depends on subsidies from public administrations. At the moment, most of the summer excavations are being suspended and others are pending a last minute decision. In many cases it is better to run a campaign with very few people and get work done to paralyze it for a year because that still means paralyzing it forever.
–How many campaigns are there in Spain?
– It is a data that we do not have. There are many and many of them affect the empty Espña. They are carried out in very small towns, which have practically no inhabitants and which, however, fill up with people in the summer, which gives life to the town and which launches a potentially tourist resource in the medium term … This year, all that is not It will happen in many places.
–What losses are expected for the sector?
–We estimate that around 36 million euros, according to the survey we did. Keep in mind that the sector is not regulated, that it is small, that it does not have its own professional code in the Treasury …
– What is more worrying, that the works are paralyzed or that the campaigns are paralyzed?
-Both. For works, the paralysis of archeology supposes that the work has been paralyzed with all the impact that this has. And for a known site, not continuing to research means not acquiring more knowledge. And it is not only to stop digging, it is to stop investing in site conservation. We have recent examples in Castilla-La Mancha. When the Archaeological Park Plan was abandoned, the sites were plunged into a distress that took years to recover. It is not a desirable situation.
–Why do you think the government has not directed its aid to the sector as well?
-Well I do not know. We have seen misunderstanding on their part. First, we did not understand the initial approach that culture was not going to face problems in this situation, then, it seemed incomprehensible to us that it marginalized archeology in particular.
–I suppose it usually happens in times of crisis.
Yes, in times of crisis, sectors that are not culture prevail and invest in other things that are more tangible from the point of view of society. This already happened in 2008.
“Do things look as bad as they did then?”
-I do not know. I don’t know if it’s worse or not because the situation is a little unpredictable. The one then was a global economic crisis in which we were all in the same boat and more or less the reaction of the public administrations could be expected; in this case it is not like that and there is less talk of austerity and that kind of thing. It depends, in any case, on public administrations and on how the private investor perceives the situation. Right now the prospect is bad. Maybe in the medium term it won’t be so bad
–Why would you say that archeology is important?
–Because it is important to know our past and to investigate and enhance our cultural heritage and it is a tourist engine for depressed areas right now, and a job engine.
–What can be the consequences of the lack of support?
–Taking into account that we are in a deregulated sector and with a very weak articulation it may be the definitive dynamism of the sector. The truth is that it could end up disappearing.
–Given the necessary sanitary protection measures, is it feasible to return to the fields in summer?
-We understand that yes, but of course these protection measures will imply an investment and reduce the capacity of work and the capacity of the spaces and that implies that just as a campaign this year can only have a third of the participants, that is, they leave to obtain much less results. In some cases it may involve suspending them because it is not profitable to work under those conditions.