Onward, soldiers of Cultural Heritage

An issue that always is actual and important is: How do we protect the Cultural Heritage from destruction, looting or ignorance? This is a global problem but the problem differs between different regions. The problems are local but the loss is global as the Cultural Heritage, ancient monuments or remains are irreplaceable. Once it is gone it is gone forever, and if it is not documented that part of information will never be part of the weave of knowledge we weave. This is also common problem as the Cultural Heritage can be said to belong to all and no one, it is a legacy for coming generations as well as it is a legacy to us living today.

As I’ve written in previous posts a major problem in Sweden is the destruction of ancient monuments and remains due to forestry. Therefore I was when I read a joint letter from the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Justice dated 2007-12-20 where the heads of the department acknowledged the problem. In the letter the crimes regarding the cultural heritage in churches; theft of art etc, and the destruction of ancient monuments are mentioned. The writers base much of the conclusions on two reports: “Brottsplats kyrkan” (Crime scene: the church) from 2005 and “Brott under ytan” (Crimes under the surface) from 2007. The two reports have shown that these kinds of crimes are more frequent than previous was known. In churches this foremost regards theft and burglary whilst crimes against ancient monuments primarily are due to ignorance or lack of knowledge.

The Departments concludes that there is a need for better routines when reports regarding crimes against the Cultural Heritage are made. There is a need for a legible routine regarding who and how reports should be made; they also stipulate that the government shall encourage reporting crimes of this nature. Therefore the government has assigned the National Heritage Board and the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention to bring forth basic data and proposals on how to prevent, discovber and take legal measures against crimes on the Cultural heritage.

The letter is addressed to The National Heritage Board, the County Administrative Boards, the Police and to the Church of Sweden.

It is good that the government have come to realize that there is a big problem concerning the state of our Cultural Heritage, now lets hope that this is not only empty words. There are several needs; communicating with landowners and with the forestry industry, but there also a need to discuss legislations and praxis within the Cultural Heritage community. For example regarding how we can maintain and manage the ancient monuments that are registered across Sweden (more than 380000) today. What are acceptable losses (if any)? Do we need to rank different types of monuments? etc etc… 

One thing is certain it is better to be a hot subject than an invisible one! A best case scenario is that this will lead to exacting discussions, new ideas and a better world for ancient monuments and for those who cares for them.

Magnus Reuterdahl


About Magnus Reuterdahl

I am an archaeologist/Osteologist from Sweden. My main intrest lays in north Euorpean archaeology in, preferbly the prehistory of the late iron age and the neolithic periods. I've also got a strong intrest for Chinese archaeology, especially the neolithc Yangshao culture. I also write about cultural heritage and cultural history. Mitt namn är Magnus Reuterdahl, jag är arkeolog och osteolog och arbetar företrädesvis i Sverige även om jag gjort ett par vändor till Kina. På den här bloggen skriver jag om mitt yrke, om fornlämningar, kulturarv och kulturhistoria m m. View all posts by Magnus Reuterdahl

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