(2016), From the ground up: Experiencing Romania through excavations at Halmyris in the Danube Delta, 22nd Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists
Author(s) from Durham
The concept of archaeological tourism, or tourism based on the experiencing of an ‘authentic’ past through the viewing of
archaeological sites (Timothy and Boyd 2006), is a distinctly Western phenomenon derived from nationalist capitalism which
encourages heritage consumption (Rowan and Baram 2004). There are obvious challenges in the display of heritage specifically for
monetary profit, a practice which often silences alternative versions of the past (see e.g. Waitt 2000). This does not, however, negate
the potential benefits for archaeological tourism, rather it gives us an opportunity for finding new ways of encouraging a more holistic
cross-cultural interaction. This paper presents one potential good practice example— an ongoing project in Romania advocating for
cultural awareness by encouraging a participatory version of archaeological tourism through field school attendance.
Since 2012 an international management team has run a not-for-profit archaeological field school at Halmyris, a Roman legionary
fort in the Danube Delta. The costs for student volunteers are kept minimal and with an average of 25-30 participants each season we
are able to independently finance the excavations and sustain the program. We do attract a number of undergraduates, MA students,
and PhD students from archaeology and related disciplines; however, since 2014 we have had 10 volunteers who are decidedly
atypical. Ranging from 54 years old to 77, and hailing from New Zealand, Australia, North America, France, and the UK we find our
project decidedly enhanced by the presence of retired folk eager for new life experiences. They have chosen to help excavate a site
which goes a step past comparatively passive tourism to what I term participatory archaeological tourism. By engaging directly with
excavations at Halmyris this demographic is able to not only live alongside rural Danubian fishermen, but gain new skills and most
importantly a newfound understanding of heritage displays and the social context of the past. I believe this is one model which may be
of use for other developing projects looking to finance excavation and engage alternative audiences. In this paper I will examine both
the challenges and the benefits for the project in welcoming this demographic of field volunteers, and reflect on the unique experience
of Romania they are able to gain through participatory archaeological tourism.
Conference date: 31 August- 4 Sept 2016.