Heritage vs development

By: Lakshmi Kothaneth

MUSCAT: Preventive archaeology is essential as a nation moves with urbanisation and development, say archaeologists. In this regard, the Ministry of Heritage and Culture is conducting a training programme in cooperation with the French National Institute for Preventive Archeological Research.

“The idea of the cooperation is to transfer knowledge, capacity building in the field of archaeology, more specifically in the field of preventive archaeology, which is archaeology that is development led. It is archaeology meant before the development projects of a country are made,” said Kai Salas Rossenbach, Head of International Activities, French National Institute for Preventive Archeological Research.

The experts are presenting the world context of what is being practiced in France and contextualise it to an Omani possibility. The team is trying to set up and transmit a series of methodologies that are being used in France to study and save the heritage before the construction of highways, parking places and other development projects.

The process can be challenging. “It is difficult because you have to be completely integrated into the development process. This is the key point. It is looking at heritage accompanying the development process and not hindering or stopping it.

This is the main element because we need the support of the developers, other ministries and from the population of course,” explained Rossenbach. A key example of a balance between preservation of archaeological site and advancement of economy is Qalhat in Sharqiyah Governorate of Oman. The Sultanate, however, has many more historical sites, some which are found within the city limits.

ArcheologyWhen asked how one can know if there is a bit of history lying under the land marked for development, the archeologist replied: “There you have to go for a series of sources. There is not only one. The first one is the citizen and the population and their knowledge of their own territory; secondly it the expertise of the professionals.

In Oman you have a strong Ministry of Heritage and Culture with a lot of professionals who can go for the first assessment not only in the field but also in the documentation. This is the base of our work.”
Rossenbach said the most important message the team wants to convey to the attendees is that there is no one specific model that is appropriate. “The idea is to construct an Omani model of heritage linked with development process.”

The Ministry of Culture and Heritage is on a five-year restoration programme of Qalhat historical site which includes several excavation and archeological restoration operations for the town.

The project helped in gathering information about the history of the town and its evolution, at the same time space management, the port business activities, commercial networks regional as well as international levels — all of which reflect on the life of the people who lived in the historical Qalhat.


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