Rescue Archaeology: A European View

Posted: 8 Oct 2012

See all articles by Jean-Paul Demoule

Jean-Paul Demoule

Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne

Date Written: October 2012


Although archaeological finds have long been unearthed during construction projects, true rescue excavations began in Europe only as recent as the nineteenth century and became systematic only after World War II. Design and operations then began to be systematized, culminating in 1992 with the signing of the Valletta Convention to protect archaeological heritage. This agreement was ratified by most European countries as part of the European Council, and it contributed to the strong development of rescue archaeology (or preventive archaeology). Excavations had long been organized by academic institutions, but from 1980 onward, there appeared, first in the United Kingdom then in other Western European countries, “commercial archaeology,” led by private businesses. A debate among European archaeologists is taking place concerning the most effective system to protect excavations and the study and publication of endangered sites.

Suggested Citation

Demoule, Jean-Paul, Rescue Archaeology: A European View (October 2012). Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 41, pp. 611-626, 2012, Available at SSRN: or

Jean-Paul Demoule (Contact Author)

Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne ( email )

17, rue de la Sorbonne
Paris, IL 75005

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