European archaeology and the world: dependencies and mutual development
As of 2014, the World Heritage List (UNESCO) has 759 cultural heritage sites. Archaeology has a special role in the study, preservation and classification of these sites as it reveals and enlightens the context for most of them.
This explains why many archaeological sites are listed as World Heritage. Despite this fact, archaeology is not always taken into consideration within the management plans of the major heritage sites. Preventive archaeology in particular and its core concept of preservation through study are not yet fully apprehended.
A scientific approach should be proposed in order to protect the sites and their surroundings from urban and touristic development.
This issue is particularly important in non-western countries, where heritage management infrastructures are in the process of development and where both governmental and international support for heritage management is limited. In these circumstances, an innovative approach to community involvement could make the difference for the future of heritage preservation.
Community involvement is actually one of the central points of present and future archaeological activities and heritage management. This is not just for the benefit of the heritage, but in particular for the communities itself as well. It not only empowers people if they take responsibility for the historic environment, it may as well bring along socio-economic opportunities.
Local populations are generally highly interested in their heritage and motivated to engage with it. Yet, in many places in the world such involvement still fails to be enforced. This is either due to a lack of knowledge and skills of archaeologists, to financial limitations of the heritage projects, or to deficiencies in local capacities. Community involvement does not happen spontaneously, it must be organized. Moreover, for public engagement to be effective, capacity building is crucial. Communities need to be able to understand how to preserve, maintain and manage a site and they need to construct a stable managerial infrastructure that will function smoothly once implemented.