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The term 'Raubgrabung' ('illicit excavation') is frequently used in archaeology without having been properly defined. In its colloquial use, it is normally used for illegal excavations, while in its use within the discipline it tends to be used for excavations by members of the general public not conducted and recorded according to disciplinary minimum standards.
Since its beginnings, archaeological heritage management has tried to solve the 'problem of illicit excavations' by means of laws requiring excavations to be conducted only with permission by state heritage agencies. This contribution demonstrates that this attempted solution is not just inherently problematic, but has to be considered to have failed. It does not achieve its intended goal that excavations are carried out in accordance with disciplinary standards. Instead, they divide citizens into a tiny minority which is trusted by the state to excavate properly, and a vast majority which is not trusted to be able or willing to do so.
It would probably be a better alternative attempt to solve the problem of illicit excavations by establishing scaled, legally binding minimum standards for the recording and recovery of archaeological contexts and finds, applicably in all circumstances where archaeology is discovered; and a regime of sanctions for failure to meet these standards. This solution would have several significant advantages over the currently chosen one and should thus allow to reduce the archaeological damage caused by illicit excavations and other works possibly disturbing archaeology in the ground.


  • ARCHAEOLOGY, Heritage management, heritage law, Austria, Germany, Illicit excavations, Civil rights
Original languageGerman
Place of PublicationVienna
PublisherInternationales Österreichisches Archäologie Forum
Media of outputOnline
Size23 pages
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2017

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