The Valletta Convention

Introduction 2011

One of the most important campaigns carried out by the Council for Independent Archaeology was that against the Valletta Convention in 2001.  The Valletta Convention was established by the Council of Europe to protect the archaeological heritage,  but Article 3 of the Convention states that archaeology should only be allowed if carried out by ‘qualified, specially authorised persons’, which contradicts the whole basis of amateur archaeology.  The Council therefore ran a campaign against this in conjunction with Current Archaeology, as a result of which English Heritage began to receive angry complaints from its members, and to some extent backtracked and  modified its position.

The principles underlying our campaign are still of major importance and thus in these revised webpages we are basically reprinting our original pages. In retrospect, I think one can allow that the English input to the Valletta Convention had considerable beneficial effects in introducing the English concept of developer funding to the continent.

However whether inadvertently or quite deliberately, the Convention belittled or ignored the contribution to be made by amateurs,  and also put the British Museum  and the whole Portable Antiquities Scheme  into jeopardy. It is a good example of a Convention which had potentially very harmful side-effects, and these web pages form a master-class in explaining how well-meaning Conventions can go wrong.

We start by offering an analysis of the Convention and follow it up with a short series of FAQ’s. We then give the text of a Press Release put out somewhat unguardedly by the English Heritage Press Office. However following our intervention, English Heritage then produced a much more careful ‘Position Statement’ written by one of their more thoughtful inspectors, Chris Young, and we follow this with our reply. There is then a fascinating page on the licensing of archaeology imposed by many other governments,  quoting from the laws of Ireland and France. Finally we reprint the Valletta convention in full, and also the official ‘Explanatory Report’ which in many ways is even more dangerous than the actual Convention.  From here, please click through to our 2001 introduction.

(Note on spelling. In English, the capital of Malta is usually spelt Valletta, with two ‘l’s’; the French however usually spell it Valetta, with a single ’l’, pointing our quite correctly that the name is derived from the founder Jean Parisot de la Valette; the Convention is ambiguous, using both spellings, and we tend to follow the spelling of our sources).

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