Fouseki and Sandes: Private Preservation versus Public Presentation

Private Preservation versus Public Presentation: The Conservation for Display of In Situ Fragmentary Archaeological Remains in London and Athens

Kalliopi Fouseki

Department of Archaeology, University of York

Caroline Sandes

UCL Institute of Archaeology


Academic values, heritage management, in situ conservation, public use values


The conservation of ruins and archaeological sites in situ is not a new activity. As Jokilehto’s extensive study, A History of Architectural Conservation, shows, there has been an interest in saving historic architecture since Roman times, and an interest in preserving ruins in cities such as Rome since at least the sixteenth century (1999: 16). In modern times, however, the process of conserving sites in situ in urban areas has become increasingly complicated due to growing pressure on urban space and the demands of modern development. There is a growing tendency to conserve such sites within the buildings being constructed rather than in the open air. Practically speaking, it is easier to maintain and protect an archaeological site that is inside. However, the inherent problems of how to integrate a site conserved within a building into the wider urban context outside, how to facilitate public access, and the potential ‘over-museumification’ of such archaeological remains, still requires theoretical discussion.

The conservation of sites depends on a variety of factors, including the socio-political situation of the city concerned, the existing administrative and legislative frameworks, the financial capabilities of relevant public and private sectors, the current archaeological and conservation trends and priorities, and the demands of various other stakeholders. Nevertheless, conservation specialists tend to concentrate only on the practical aspects of the physical fabric (Avrami et al. 2000: 3; Mason and Avrami 2002: 15, 19). There is, however, a growing argument in favour of what Mason (2006) identifies as a ‘value-centred’ approach to conservation. The aim of this paper is to examine the conservation for display of fragmentary sites, such as remains of historic town walls, that are to be found in numerous historic cities in Europe and beyond, by examining the effects of the dominant set of values as to how such sites are displayed.

The necessity to examine this type of site is due to the lack of theorisation of in situ conservation in the literature and in practice. Existing literature tends to focus mainly on practical issues, such as the design of suitable foundations (Pugh-Smith et al. 2004: 149), collaboration with a diverse range of individuals and groups of people including designers and developers (Hughes et al. 2004), and, of course, preserving the fabric for posterity. This paper intends to theorise the issue of in situ conservation of fragmentary sites through the scope of two fundamental sets of values: ‘academic/scientific’ values and ‘public use’ values. In this paper, academic values include scientific, educational, age, historical and rarity values, equating to Riegl’s (1996: 69) historic value of monuments and to Feilden’s (2003: 6) cultural values of historic buildings. It is these academic values that are attributed mainly by archaeologists and conservation specialists to archaeological remains which underpin the decision to conserve. ‘Use values’ equate to Feilden’s “use value” (2003: 6), which he defines as functional, economic, social, educational, political and ethnic, and which, again following Riegl (1996: 79), refer to the interaction of people with the monument.

Both the integration of sites into the urban setting and the display of sites conserved inside involve some degree of aesthetic enhancement, from basic cleaning up of the archaeological remains and their immediate context to the development of detailed displays. Despite this, public use values are often devalued or appear to come into conflict with academic values, as the latter are usually considered of primary importance by archaeological and conservation specialists concerned with the site as a ‘primary research source’ (Teller and Warnotte 2003).

This professional concern with conserving in situ remains, primarily to preserve fabric and as a research resource, suggests what may be considered a possessive attitude towards such sites by the archaeologists concerned (Fouseki 2007). This idea draws its theoretical analysis from Macpherson’s political theory of ‘possessive individualism’ and the adaptation of this theory by Richard Handler, a museum anthropologist. The concept of “possessive individualism”, developed by Macpherson in 1962, stresses that an individual is imbued with a dual and internally contradictory ontology; the ontology of the infinite consumer coupled with the ontology of the individual as developer of his/her own self (Macpherson 1962). Richard Handler (1992) has used this theory in order to interpret possessive curatorial attitudes towards museum collections and cultural objects. Handler (1992: 23) has argued that the focus of curators on the intrinsic value of an object of museum quality is characteristic of modern possessive individualism since curators value an object for its museum quality on the basis of its condition. According to Handler, “possessive individualism … privileges isolable individuals and defines them with respect to the material objects they may be said to detach from the world around them and thereby possess” (1992: 23). Within the archaeological context, the ability to own and to identify ‘myself’ through possession of knowledge ultimately reinforces archaeological power and authoritarianism. This authoritarianism is evident in the central role of the archaeologist in decision making over in situ conservation, and most importantly, in setting his/her criteria on justifying in situ conservation (Fouseki 2008). Archaeologists both in Greece and in the UK were seen, and are still seen, as the experts and the most appropriate professionals for protecting archaeological heritage for future generations.

In Greece, the Greek Archaeological Service was established in 1835 with the aim of conserving and managing the restoration of archaeological works (Kokkou 1977: 72). Classical antiquities became the emblems of national identity (Yalouri 2001: 35) and, therefore, their preservation was prioritised. Within this context, archaeologists were viewed as the main protectors of the “glorious, national past” (Yalouri 2001: 186) and they were ultimately empowered to define and speak for this past. We argue that this empowerment encouraged the development of possessive individualist attitudes towards the archaeological record. These possessive attitudes fit comfortably within the nature of the Authorised Heritage Discourse (AHD). As Smith points out the AHD “…focuses on aesthetically pleasing material objects, sites, places and/or landscapes that current generations ‘must’ care for, protect and revere, so that they may be passed to nebulous future generations for their ‘education’, and to forge a sense of common identity based on the past” (2006: 29). One aspect of this authorised heritage discourse is the dominance of academic/scientific criteria over public use values at in situ sites conserved for display.

The paper will examine a series of case studies from London and Athens, two large cities which, despite their differences in legislative and administrative frameworks, share common difficulties and problems regarding in situ conservation policy. The issue of the dominance of academic criteria over public use values will be examined through a theoretical discussion on the possessive individualist approaches of experts – in our case the archaeologist – stressing at the same time the importance of rendering these approaches into approaches of ‘collective possessiveness’. The analysis of a public minded in situ conservation policy with an academically driven one will be applied to both outdoor and indoor fragmentary archaeological remains. This paper argues that a public minded decision making policy for in situ conservation of such sites is more likely not only to enhance the public use values of a site, but also to ensure its sustainable physical and intellectual access. In contrast, a narrow-focused policy based on strictly scientific and academic criteria – imposed mainly by archaeologists – will eventually and most probably lead to abandonment and inaccessibility of the sites

In situ Conservation in London: A Brief History

One of the earliest modern examples of in situ conservation in London is a Roman and medieval bastion in Cripplegate that was conserved outdoors in the early 1900s (Terry 1905). An early example of a site conserved and displayed within a new building is the remains of another Roman bastion, in the basement of the then new General Post Office in Giltspur Street. This was conserved mostly due to public interest (Ministry of Works 1959), although now it may only be seen by appointment. The first legal protection for archaeological sites came with the Ancient Monuments Protection Act (1882) followed by those of 1931 and 1953, but these were very much concerned with rural sites. It was in the aftermath of the destruction of World War II (1939-1945) and the subsequent rebuilding that archaeological excavations in urban areas as part of redevelopment began, but it was not until the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act (1979) that an attempt was made to legally protect historic towns and their archaeology. Most of the City of London’s sites conserved for display date from the post-war redevelopment phase. At that time, the preferred option was to conserve sites in situ in the open air; a good example of this is the stretch of city wall in St Alphage’s Churchyard, conserved in the early 1950s (Fig. 1).

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Figure 1. City Wall, St. Alphage´s Churchyard, London (Photo by C. Sandes).

Since then, the Department of the Environment’s (1990) Planning Policy Guidance Note 16: Archaeology and Planning (PPG16) presented a major policy change in relation to urban archaeological sites, though this legislation is only for guidance. There is, however, a new draft Heritage Protection Bill that is scheduled to come into effect in 2010 (DCMS 2008). There has also been an increasing tendency towards reburial of archaeological remains, i.e. ‘preservation in situ’, a practice first advised in the Athens Charter for the Restoration of Historic Monuments (1931). More recently, the Council of Europe’s (1992) European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (Valletta Convention) stresses the need to conserve archaeological remains in situ where feasible.

London: Indoor Sites

The West Gate of the Cripplegate fort and remains of the Roman amphitheatre below the Guildhall Art Gallery, both in the City of London, will be examined here as examples of different approaches to sites conserved indoors.

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Figure 2. West Gate, Cripplegate, London (Photo by S. McCarthy).

The West Gate (Fig. 2) was discovered during excavations by Professor Grimes and the Roman and Medieval Excavation Council in the late 1940s (Milne 2002). The discovery of part of a Roman fort was crucial for understanding the early history of London (Grimes 1955: 36). The Corporation of the City of London reluctantly agreed to conserve the site but, as it was in the line of the new Route 11 road underneath which was to be a car park, the site had to be conserved within the car park (Ministry of Works 1952: 2044). The Ancient Monuments Board reluctantly agreed, though they would have preferred for it to be conserved outside (Ministry of Works 1952: 2044). There were also concerns over its accessibility to the public that resulted in a question raised in Parliament, to which the Minister of Works gave assurances that the site would be accessible to the general public (Ministry of Works 1952: 2044). It is apparent from the files that the practicalities of admitting the public to the site once it was enclosed were never considered (Sandes 2007: 74).

The West Gate site was subsequently conserved within the London Wall car park but, unlike the small section of city wall which was also conserved in the car park at the same time, it was not only not left visible to the public, but locked away in a separate room. It is accessible, but only via a monthly but excellent tour from the Museum of London. While there is some signage and an out-of-date model at the site, there is no further enhancement of its basement surroundings, making it hard, if not impossible, to appreciate that this is an important Roman site that has survived in situ, and which is part of a wider historic landscape as represented by other surviving Roman sites in London. Outside, at the entrance to the car park, there is a sign, dating from the 1980s, which is part of the now defunct London Wall Walk that ran between the Tower of London and the Museum of London (Chapman et al. 1985). This sign, however, gives no indication that the West Gate site is still in existence, nor how it may be visited.

The second site comprises the remains of the eastern entrance to the Roman amphitheatre, discovered in 1987 during archaeological investigations in advance of the building of the Guildhall Art Gallery. The Corporation of the City of London once again had to be convinced to allow the conservation of the site. The recommendations of PPG16, and pressure from English Heritage and others to conserve the site, resulted in the plans for the Gallery being altered, allowing the Museum of London to excavate the remains and conserve them in situ in the basement. The building and conservation works were completed by 2003 and the site is open to the public.

The design of the site display was given careful consideration, as would be expected since the archaeological remains are located in an art gallery. What survives of the amphitheatre are the lower levels of the masonry remains of the entrance tunnel to the arena. In the floor, the wooden remains of a box drain have been conserved and put back in place under glass. The arena and some male figures have been simulated using bright green luminous lines, giving an artistic impression of the part of the site the surviving masonry originally formed (Museum of London 2008). The remains are surrounded by sand and the flooring on which the visitor walks complements this in appearance. There is an audio device playing ambient sounds and the lighting focuses on the archaeology, although overall it is too dark, especially for reading the otherwise informative panels, and bearing in mind this space was an outdoor arena. The display could include a larger, more comprehensive illustration of what the complete amphitheatre might have looked like, and an aerial shot of the Guildhall Art Gallery to draw attention to the large oval area marked out in the courtyard outside which shows the likely extent of the amphitheatre. These elements would contextualise the archaeological site more clearly, and allow for an appreciation of its original size. There are, however, discussions in progress between the Museum of London and the Corporation to install more panels in the foyer space and perhaps to include a display of artefacts (pers. comm., T. Williams).

London: Outdoor Sites

Since the late 1940s, a number of archaeological sites have also been conserved in the open air in London. The majority are remains of the Roman and medieval city wall, an example of which, at Coopers Row, along with the remains of the medieval Great Hall of the Bishop of Winchester’s Palace, Southwark, are examined here.

In the 1960s, a stretch of the city wall was conserved for display just off Coopers Row, near the Tower of London (Fig. 3). It was the aim of the enlightened private developers of the property, in conjunction with the Ancient Monuments Board, that this part of the City wall should be a showpiece, with a suitable context and public access (Ministry of Works 1952: 2041). The wall now forms an attractive backdrop to a courtyard that provides open air seating for a café-bar and restaurant. There is a sign in front of the wall giving its history and explaining its features with the aid of a diagram of the site. At the street entrance to the courtyard, there is also a large bronze interpretative sign. This site is one of the better examples of how to conserve and integrate a piece of standing archaeology in an urban context. The courtyard allows the space for it to be appreciated academically, while also providing it with public use value, so giving it an active sense of place and purpose within its modern urban surroundings.

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Figure 3. City Wall, Cooper´s Row, London (Photo by C. Sandes).

The second site is the surviving portion of the medieval Great Hall of the Bishop of Winchester’s Palace, Southwark (Fig. 4). The site was conserved by English Heritage in 1983-1984, retaining the impressive west gable with its rose window, amongst other features. The site is located at the edge of Clink Street, but the medieval ground level, to which the site has been cleared, is about 2m below street level. This area is covered with gravel, through which some low pieces of masonry protrude. There is a sign with a brief history of the site and a copy of a 19th century print of the Great Hall, by then derelict. This sign does not, however, give the visitor an image of what the building may have been like when complete, nor does it explain many of the visible features.

The site is clearly visible from the street, and the west gable provides a dramatic visual impact. The remaining features, however, say little, particularly as they are not explained, and it is debatable whether it was necessary to leave the entire footprint of the Great Hall open down to the medieval ground level. There is no public access to this area and it is, for all intents and purposes, a wasted space. This site is sadly more typical of how sites conserved outdoors tend to end up: conserved in a relatively sterile fashion with minimal information. Such sites quickly become ‘invisible’ monuments, particularly to the local community, as there is no public use value and therefore no encouragement to interact with the site. In the case of the Great Hall, providing it with more informative signage and, at the very least, conserving the footprint of the building in such a way as to allow public access along with providing some practical use – even by just putting in some benches – may have, respectively, encouraged people to learn more about the site and to interact with it.

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Figure 4. Great Hall, Bishop of Winchester´s Palace, London (Photo by D. McAndrew).

The primary reasoning for conserving archaeological sites in London is based on academic values – i.e. the scientific, educational, age, historical and rarity values of the fabric. While these values are equally relevant to the public, who are often quoted as the reason for saving the site, little concession is made to any public use of the site. Many of the academic values are obscure or unrecognisable if such sites are not presented properly. It should be appreciated that the vast majority of the public may have no idea what a Roman fort, an amphitheatre, a city wall or a Great Hall may have looked like, let alone functioned, and that it is most likely only the aesthetic values of what many will merely see as an old ruin, which will draw people to look at it (or indeed cause them to ignore it). Proper signage and an appreciation of these other values by enhancing the context of the site, are, it is suggested, the key to conserving sites for display that both emphasises and transmits academic values to others.

In situ Conservation in Athens: A Brief History

While in London, as detailed above, an interest in rendering sites accessible to the public occurred as early as the 1900s, in Athens it was only in the 1970s when archaeologists started catering for the public. Accordingly, a detailed examination of archaeological newsletters dating back to the 1880s in Greece has shown that the criteria for the in situ conservation of urban archaeological remains were, and still are, mostly academic, including the topographical significance of remains, their uniqueness, rarity and representativeness (Fouseki 2008).

Some early examples of in situ conservation in the open-air include a Roman bathhouse that was discovered during the construction of the ‘Zappeion Megaron’ in 1873 in Athens (PAE 1874) and a public ‘stoa’, discovered in 1886 during the construction of a private house in Piraeus (PAE 1886: 17). The approval of funding for rescue excavations by the state in 1929 resulted in the in situ conservation of archaeological remains in the basement of blocks of flats (Veleni 1993: 95-96). This attempt was interrupted by the Second World War and the Greek Civil Wars (1944-1945, 1946-1949) and it was only during the post-war development of big cities and tourist islands that in situ conservation was generalised as a practice for protecting archaeological heritage from construction works. Under the influence of the 1960 UNESCO recommendation to render museums accessible to everyone, small-scale urban archaeological sites were made accessible to the public in the 1970s (Christodoulakos 1993). At the end of the 1980s, Greek archaeologists gradually started to develop an interest in presenting in situ conserved remains in the basements of modern buildings or beneath streets visible to pedestrians through the use of transparent covering shelters (Dreliosi and Filimonos 1993). This development was facilitated by legislation in the 1980s which forced town planners to request permission from the archaeological service before they could continue with a project (Genikos Oikodomikos Kanonismos 1985). In the 1990s, in situ remains were enhanced in the metro stations in Athens, as a result of legislation that forced developers to pay the cost of enhancement (for example see Law 2338/95), and the changes in international heritage management principles regarding the enhancement of archaeological heritage (Council of Europe 1992; ICOMOS 1990).

Athens: Indoor Sites

This section provides a brief comparative study of small-scale in situ conserved archaeological remains in car parks and in the underground stations of the city. There are at least 97 parts of the ancient city wall that have been conserved in situ in the basements of modern buildings or car parks. The majority of these sites were discovered in the 1960s and 1970s and are inaccessible not only to the public but also, occasionally, to archaeologists. At Klafthmonos Square, for instance, parts of the ancient city wall are conserved in situ within a car park without any provision for accessibility, sustainable protection and interpretation, next to the cars (Thermou 2002). Similarly, on Dragatsaniou Street 8, parts of the city wall are conserved in situ in the basement of the modern building without any sign indicating their existence (Thermou 2002). Restricted access is imposed mainly by the legislation which allows property owners to control accessibility to archaeological sites (Law 3028/2002). However, most importantly, the main reason for lack of accessibility and interpretation is the underlying philosophy of in situ conservation for strictly academic reasons (Fouseki 2007; Fouseki 2008).

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Figure 5. Dafni Metro Station: replica of the stratigraphy and some of the objects discovered during the construction of the Metropolitan Railway Station in Athens (Photo by K. Fouseki).

Contrarily, in the case of the underground stations, public access to the in situ conserved remains was a major concern. This ultimately led to the creation of an innovative way to conserve and present urban archaeological remains to the public (Fig. 5). In the case of Evangelismos Station, for instance, the remains of a Late Classical kiln and its water pipes, discovered between 1992 and 2000, are enriched with the reconstruction of a section of a kiln (ΑD 1992: 21). At Dafni Metro Station and Syntagma Metro Station (Fig. 5), informative panels explain the history of the excavations and of the remains, while replicas of the stratigraphy displayed at Dafni Metro Station, and the display of movable artefacts, reveal the attempts of archaeologists to educate the public about its history and to reinforce indirectly the historical consciousness of the citizens. The fact that the majority of the objects are replicas suggests that the main concern among the designers of the exhibition was the creation of an educational exhibition aiming to provide the sense of an ‘authentic’ experience, resulting from the sense of place, rather than the ‘authenticity’ of material.

Athens: Outdoor Sites

As in the case of London, many small-scale archaeological sites have been preserved in the open air in big cities in Greece. The majority of these sites lack any interpretation (such as informative panels or signage), although recently there is a trend to present the sites with more attention to aesthetics. The sites discussed below are located on Aiolou Street in Athens, a historic street that has a view towards the Acropolis Hill. These sites are the fortification wall conserved in the open air basement of the National Bank of Greece (NBG), located opposite to the Town Hall, and the archaeological site in Kotzia Square, next to the NBG.

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Figure 6. The remains of the “Archarnikai Gate” are preserved in a semi open air space in the basement of the National Bank of Greece, Athens. Remains opposite to the site are protected by pyramidoid shelters (Photo by K. Fouseki).

The NBG building integrates remains of the fortification wall of the city, dating back to 476 BC, which were discovered during excavations conducted in 1974 (ΑD 1973-1974: 115) (Fig. 6). The site was connected with the location of the Acharnian Gate, one of the key entrance ways into the ancient city of Athens. The 3rd Ephorate (Directorate) of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities allowed the construction of the new building under the condition that the remains would be conserved in situ in the basement of the building. The construction of the bank started in 1998.

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Figure 7. Informative panel, National Bank of Greece (Photo by K. Fouseki).

The criteria for the in situ conservation of the site were, as mentioned above, strictly academic (Fouseki 2008), and referred mainly to its topographical importance. However, in contrast to the previous examples of the small-scale city walls, this site was conserved in a semi-open air space and was enriched with an informative panel located at the front of the bank (Fig. 7). Lights were also placed in the proximity of the remains, so they can be visible during the night. Similarly, other remains located opposite to the National Bank were sheltered by pyramid-shaped glass roofs.

In the proximity of the NBG building there is a small archaeological site preserved in the northern corner of the Kotzia Square. The square is located opposite to the Town Hall and next to the National Bank, a place where several cultural activities take place during festivals. The remains consist of three ancient roads, a cemetery and a late Roman ceramic workshop (AD 1988: 22). These remains were discovered during the construction of an underground car park in the 1980s, an initiative undertaken by the Ministry for the Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works (ΑD 1988: 22). Part of the remains are preserved in the open air, but there is no interpretation or enhancement, and several architects have characterised the site as “a black hole” dominating the historic centre (Ζevas 1997: 5).

The two sites are totally different in terms of presentation. Although the site in Kotzia Square provides more space for intervention and interpretation and is slightly bigger than the NGB site, it totally lacks interpretation, giving the impression of a dead space. On the contrary, the small-scale archaeological remains in the bank and opposite to it are deliberately enhanced and protected, constituting a good example of integrating remains aesthetically into the urban context.


Indoor Sites

The city walls, Athens, and the West Gate site, London, are small-scale archaeological sites consisting of remains of ancient fortification walls that lack, to a greater or lesser extent, interpretation and presentation. At both sites there is also no indication outside of the exact location of the remains for visitors to the site. The paucity of interpretation could be partly explained by the fact that they are early examples of in situ conservation, by lack of collaboration with other relevant professionals, and lack of in-depth knowledge of public perceptions. Furthermore, the location of the remains in a car park certainly restrict attempts for enhancement, although in the case of the West Gate there are some information panels and a model, albeit old. This situation contrasts to the majority of examples of art galleries or museums that conserve in situ archaeological remains and present them in an aesthetic way, as in the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki (AD 1996: 427), and the Guildhall Amphitheatre, London.

These indoor sites reveal that remains were preserved due to their archaeological significance – such fortifications seem to have special topographical/historical significance – while there was no concern for education, presentation and intellectual accessibility. Certainly, issues of safety, funding and staffing affect the enhancement of small archaeological sites preserved in the basements of modern buildings. However, organised tours of small visitor groups, covering the remains with transparent material and installing informative panels outdoors, could be a way to enrich the presentation of the site.

The exceptional case of the Guildhall Amphitheatre can be compared with the metro station displays in Athens. In both examples, innovation, imagination and an effort for education and presentation are the dominant characteristics. Although the remains and the displayed objects in the Athens Metro are not always original, the sense of the past is highly reinforced by its everyday presence in an everyday environment, familiar to Athenian citizens. The concept of integrated conservation, emphasised in the Granada and Valletta Conventions (Pickard 2001), has acquired further dimensions and has been transformed into integrated presentation and accessibility.

Outdoor Sites

From the four outdoor sites examined in this paper some comparisons may be made. The conservation of the Aiolou Street and Cooper’s Row sites were carried out by
multi-disciplinary teams who had both academic and public values in mind. In the case of Aiolou Street, the NBG provided funds and the conservation was carried out by a team which included architects and engineers. At Cooper’s Row, the developer’s architects, along with the Ancient Monuments Board, were involved in the project. Both sites have informative and relevant signage. The main point is that both sites catch people’s attention and stimulate enough curiosity that they spend time examining the site and reading the signage. The sites, therefore, are not just physically accessible but, equally importantly, intellectually accessible. The reason for this, we suggest, is that both sites have been conserved in such a way as to provide them with a public use value by making them aesthetically attractive, which has included taking the surrounding context into consideration.

However, the other two sites – the ancient roads and workshops of Kotzia Square, Athens, and the Bishop of Winchester’s Great Hall, London – appear to have been conserved with academic but not public use values in mind. While the Great Hall does have a sign, the remains in Kotzia Square do not even have this simple but crucial enhancement. In the case of the Great Hall site, while the remains are attractive, the area around them is a gravelled, sterile and unused space. Rarely is an effort made to enhance such sites to make them attractive to visitors and it is difficult, if not impossible, for people to understand or appreciate what they are looking at. This effectively makes them dead space – something which is unacceptable and unappreciated in busy, heavily populated and ever-growing cities such as Athens and London.

The predominance of academic values, combined with the lack of appreciation of the public use value evident in the way many in situ fragmentary archaeological sites have been conserved in London and in Athens, is perhaps also an indication of the possessive tendencies of archaeologists over ‘our’ sites and knowledge. Since academic, authoritarian power is inherent in ‘possessive individualist’ approaches of experts who often feel that they own the archaeological record, public use is ultimately undervalued. Contrarily, transforming a fragmentary site from the possession of the expert who excavated and/or conserved it into a collective possession can be a much more effective way to enhance the site itself. The drivers behind the preservation types are also reflective of the possessive individualist approach of the expert. Both in London and in Athens, rarity, uniqueness, topographical significance, specific historical information, and monumentality are the main criteria for justifying in situ conservation. Without undermining these values, the above list should be expanded by integrating wider and equally important public and social values, aesthetics, and physical and intellectual access, and by recognising the potential of enhancement to promote these values. This expansion will prevent the ‘reburying’ of the sites under layers of city dirt and dust. Of course, construction constraints are a major problem, but the cases of the metro in Athens and the Guildhall in London prove that fruitful collaboration and dialogue between developers, archaeologists and a series of interested parties can lead to innovative solutions which, at the same time, can function as marketing opportunities for development companies.


The conservation of archaeological sites within cities is a wide-ranging and complicated subject. This paper highlights one of the more significant factors within the subject, that of the dominance of academic values over public use values in in situ conservation, and the need to transform the prevailing tendency of possessive individualism, evident in the restricted information and public use of some sites, into a more collective possession. We have demonstrated that what is important is that archaeological remains, whether inside or out, should be conserved in such a way that their presence is visible, or at least that their existence is clearly indicated, attracts attention and sparks the imagination, while at the same time facilitating understanding and education, and providing an interesting, unique landmark for the locality.

The UNESCO Recommendation on International Principles Applicable to Archaeological Excavations opened by expressing that “the surest guarantee for the preservation of monuments and works of the past rests in the respect and affection felt for them by the peoples themselves” (1956 Preamble). This is still very much the case today, and it is, we suggest, the public use-driven rather than the academic-driven decision making that provides the vital initial motivation for generating such interest, and for learning more about the sites concerned, and, ultimately, ensuring that in situ conservation continues to have a place in the modern, crowded and perpetually redeveloping city.


Both authors would like to thank Tim Williams for his comments on an early draft of the paper. Kalliopi Fouseki would like to thank Kathy Tubb for supervising her PhD thesis and the Greek State Foundation Scholarship. Caroline Sandes would like to thank Gustav Milne for his comments on an early draft of the London section, the City of London Archaeological Trust and London Archaeological Research Facility for funding towards this research, Sarah McCarthy for the photograph of the West Gate and Duncan McAndrew for the photograph of the Great Hall of the Bishop of Winchester’s Palace.


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