New Integrated Knowledge based approachs to the protection of cultural heritage from Earthquake-induced Risk

Heritage Conservation and Community

Conservation and Community – The Tel Yoqneʽam Study Case
“Adopt a Site” – Community Involvement in the Process of Sustainable Conservation of Archaeological Sites in Local Authorities
Eran Hemo

Archaeological sites are subject to processes of destruction and weathering. These begin immediately upon the site’s exposure in the excavation and eventually lead to the loss of its tangible values. Many of the archaeological sites are located within the precincts of local authorities and are subject to their planning and development boards. Despite this jurisdiction, most local authorities have no defined strategy for maintaining and displaying the sites, and therefore many of them are neglected and exposed to further damage and disintegration.    Sustainable conservation of archaeological sites defines the importance of a ‘place’ and requires a combination of strategies in three main processes:
1.     Conservation process: makes it possible to identify a ‘place’ of importance, expose it, give expression to it and strengthen its values;
2.     Tourism development process: allows the community and stakeholders to use the ‘place’ and enjoy its different values;
3.     Community involvement process: allows the community to recognize the values of the ‘place’, understand their importance, development a sense of local pride and connection to the place, and eventually be responsible for it. In recent years the Israel Antiquities Authority, in conjunction with the city of Yoqneʽam, has implemented a process of sustainable development and conservation of Tel Yoqneʽam. The process, known as “Adopt a Site”, has been carried out in cooperation with the community since 2007, during the course of which the archaeological remains were conserved, information stations were opened and visitor paths were prepared. All of the fourth grade pupils in elementary schools participated in the process. Each of the pupils left his personal mark there in the form of a ceramic tile incorporated in the signage on the tell. Thus a personal connection was created between the participant and the place and its values, and in that way he also contributes to protecting the place and preserving its future. 

Tel Yoqneʽam – a Case Study

Tel Yoqneʽam was excavated during two main periods: 1977-1988 when ten excavations seasons were carried out under the direction of Professor A. Ben-Tor of the Hebrew University; and in 1993, when one excavation season headed by M. Avissar of the Israel Antiquities Authority was conducted, during which unemployed residents of Yoqneʽam were engaged. Twenty-three settlement strata and impressive finds were uncovered at the tell, among them an Iron Age fortification system; dwellings, administration and religious buildings dating to the Crusader period; and a fortress ascribed to the Mamluk and Ottoman periods. 
The process at Tel Yoqneʽam is unique and is a test case the author initiated for the purpose of writing a master’s thesis in the Conservation of Material Culture Heritage study program of the University of Haifa, supervised by Dr. Ravit Lynn. The purpose of the study was to analyze the process existing at Tel Yoqneʽam and examine the possibility of proposing on the basis of it a structured process for the sustainable conservation of other archaeological sites in local authorities in Israel. The study’s findings concluded it is feasible to formulate a defined process for the sustainable conservation of archaeological sites in local authorities. Two main stages are proposed in the process: a preparation stage and an operating and monitoring stage. 

In the preparation stage the values of the place and their importance need to be conveyed to the local community. In addition, the internal and external stakeholders of the site should be identified. The stakeholders are the ones that will promote the process in each of the authorities, and they are the ones who form the necessary ties with the authorities. An essential condition for advancing to the second stage is identifying the so-called “dedicated visionaries” – an individual or group from amongst the stakeholders – who will be personally committed to the process and confident of their ability to lead it. 

The second stage – that of operating and monitoring – is a cyclical stage promoted at first by the “visionaries” and which promotes itself in later stages. In this stage a strategy is formulated for the conservation of the ‘place’ in accordance with the three aforementioned processes: the conservation process, the tourism development process and the community involvement process. The strategies are implemented at the place. Their impact on the place and its values is monitored, and leads to a cyclical process of modifying strategies and implementing them again. The process becomes sustainable when its management passes from the hands of the “dedicated visionaries” to the community or the local authority. In fact the community, including the local authority, takes on the responsibility for maintaining the process and turning the ‘place’ and its values over to the next generation.

An analysis of the Tel Yoqneʽam test case shows that the local authority has the ability to initiate the conservation of its past and fund it while strengthening the ties between the community and the place and making the place a part of the community’s life. Processes of this kind require a long time, changing the way people think and establishing the change of awareness expected from the community and the local authority regarding the conservation of the ancient heritage as part of its conduct in the present and future. Expanding community involvement from the circle of schools to other involved circles in the community will lead to expediting and establishing of the process.
After five years the process at Tel Yoqneʽam is in the second stage, but it is still being driven by “devoted visionaries”.
The ‘place’ is already being taken care within the framework of routine maintenance carried out by the municipality, but the continuation of the community process over the long term remains uncertain and the ‘place’s’ operating budget is not included in the local authority’s base budget. The process will become sustainable when it will no longer be driven by “devoted visionaries”; then the ‘place’ will function as part of the services the local authority provides to the citizen and as an integral part of the community’s life.
December 2012

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