Funding cuts could cripple archaeological work in German state

 German state of North-Rhine WestphaliaThe German state of North-Rhine Westphalia is set to completely cut funding for archaeological research, threatening many projects that look at the history of the area. Nearly 12 million in euros a year is currently being spent by the state, and archaeologists and historians are fighting to keep this funding alive.

Officials in North-Rhine Westphalia, which is home to historical cities such as Aachen and Cologne, want to eliminate funding for archaeological research by 2015, as part of their efforts to cut the state’s financial debt. In 2012 the state spent 11.4 million Euros. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ur- und Frühgeschichte e.V. (DGUF) – the German Society of Pre- and Protohistory is calling upon the state to reconsider the cuts.

Diane Scherzler, Vice-Chair of DGUF, tells that the elimination of funding “would mean a collapse for archaeology on a level that is higher than “amateur”. It would mean a collapse of job opportunities for the young, for freelance archaeologists and specialists of all kinds plus on the longer term severe difficulties for people employed in the tourism sector, e. g. in the city of Xanten.


“If a wealthy state like North-Rhine Westphalia starts with such a political strategy certainly other German states and foreign countries that are less economically wealthy will follow. Therefore anything must be done to prevent this! In my opinion we are not just talking about NRW’s cultural heritage but of European or global heritage that is owned by mankind.”

North-Rhine Westphalia, which is Germany’s most populous state, has a rich history going back to prehistoric times, but so far only about 5% of the area has had documented archaeological research. Scherzler adds that “many smaller investigations that contributed significantly to what we know about how medieval towns in Rhineland – like Aachen, Cologne or Düsseldorf – evolved. In Westphalia the major archaeological projects of the recent years are studies of medieval castles, e. g. the Falkenburg near Detmold and the Holsterburg close to Warburg.”

Funding for archaeological research does come from local organizations, and the state government is interested in having polluters and developers pay the costs for archaeological work on their properties. Scherzler is worried that if this plan goes forward will companies and people “declare archaeological findings if it costs them a lot of money but the state intends to contribute nothing but rules. If the state gives the signal that archaeology is worth nothing, why should people want to care?”

Over 23000 people have signed a petition against the funding cuts. Please visit the DGUF website for more information.

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