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Archaeologists demand national plan to stop wanton destruction of sites

BejaRomanDestroyedPortugal’s archaeologists want to see a National Archaeological Plan put in place and for each council to have a resident archaeologist.

Keenly aware of the recent destruction at a farm in the Beja district, where contractors destroyed a Roman bridge, an aqueduct and a villa, archaeologists have launched a petition to preserve the country’s heritage.

The petition “For the Defence of the National Archaeological Heritage” calls for a national plan for the preservation of heritage and the “obligatory contracting of archaeologists” by municipalities.

The petition also calls for an end to the destruction and illegal sale of national heritage and the definition of some effective measures to combat farmers ploughing up archaeological sites to make way for crops and orchards.

The initiative calls for the discussion of these matters in parliament.

The destruction of archaeological sites by farming companies, particularly in the Beja region, has been highlighted by the Regional Directorate of Culture of Alentejo which says it does not have the resources to stop every case of abuse and vandalism.

The destruction of archaeological sites at farms in Beja, Alvito, Ferreira do Alentejo, Vidigueira, Arronches and Portalegre has demonstrated the cynical way in which sites are destroyed, often before the authorities are aware of what is going on.

With “the development of agricultural projects supported by community funds in the last decades, there has been an increase of projects that involve ploughing up the ground which irremediably affects the archaeological sites below,” reads the petition.

The archaeologists say that some sites and artefacts have been safeguarded with care and sensitivity and they particularly commend the work of the Alqueva Development and Infrastructure Company in the Alentejo while noting that, “other works of the same nature have not had the necessary archaeological accompaniment, leading to the destruction of dozens or even hundreds of sites nationally, such as the twenty recently destroyed archaeological sites destroyed by preparations for an almond orchard in the municipality of Beja, which led to the disappearance of a Roman bridge, an aqueduct and a villa.”

“The State does not have the human or financial resources sufficient to guarantee scrupulous protection of this patrimony, and the Councils generally do not have qualified archaeologists on their staff.”

Hence, “the government is called upon to put into motion a National Archaeological Plan for the identification, preservation, recovery and investment in these sites, especially in the sparsely populated regions of the interior to help competitiveness, growth and employment in these economic zones.”

The petition is addressed to the Ministries of Culture, Agriculture and Environment, the Directorate of Cultural Patrimony, the regional departments of culture in the Algarve, Alentejo, Central and Northern regions, the Portuguese Environment Agency, the President of the Assembly of the Republic and, last but not least, the Prime Minister.

Click on this link for the petition: Pela Defesa do Património Arqueológico Nacional