Archaeology and civil engineering benefit the economy

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Photo: Office du patrimoine et de l’archéologie du canton de Neuchâtel
Photo: Office du patrimoine et de l’archéologie du canton de Neuchâtel

In his doctoral thesis defended at the University of Neuchâtel, Paul Jobin demonstrates the complex and fruitful relationship between archaeology and civil engineering. Or how ancient remains influence the timing and implementation of future economic developments in Switzerland.

For Paul Jobin, ’modern archaeology has changed over the decades. It is not just the science of the past and ancient artifacts, but a discipline that encourages various players in the area to engage in a genuine dialogue between past and future. The various people involved in the development of the area should therefore adopt a posture of cooperation, rather than opposition.

Preventive archaeology

In his doctoral work, the archaeologist highlights the sometimes difficult but necessary relationships and cooperation between the multitude of players involved in economic development projects involving the territory. Cultural heritage and archaeological findings are used to plan current and future developments on a territory, not to prevent them from happening. This point of view is supported by preventive archaeology, which makes it possible to reconcile safeguarding archaeological heritage and territorial development.

In this context, projects for new development or construction are examined in the light of the archaeological map - managed by the cantonal archaeological services. This preventive archaeology approach makes it possible to assess the archaeological risk and the remains potentially threatened by new constructions (buildings, infrastructures, equipment, etc.). The solutions found by civil engineers contribute to archaeological knowledge and enable new archaeological facts to be observed in the field. This is what we call a win-win situation," adds Paul Jobin.

Study, enhance, develop

In practical terms, archaeologists can be found in the field upstream of construction sites, carrying out diagnostic digs with shovels, or monitoring earthworks. Depending on the discoveries made, these two types of operation can lead to the implementation of an archaeological dig. In this process, it’s important to find the best compromise in terms of time and cost for all parties involved.

When this multitude of players develop projects together, we have the guarantee that the projects will not damage the heritage. Because if ancient objects are found, we can not only study and valorize these objects, but also envisage developments that will include the historical part of the land’. These approaches have an impact on land-use planning negotiations, as the interpretations will provide representations of the area concerned.

Bibliographical reference:

Paul Jobin, Entre patrimoine culturel et génie civil : l’intégration de l’archéologie au sein de la construction des routes nationales (1958-2012), l’exemple de la Suisse occidentale, PhD thesis, Faculté des lettres et sciences humaines, Institut d’archéologie et des sciences de l’antiquité.