Archaeological Sites and Museums

Archaeological Parks

First, one issue has to be clarified –what is an archaeological site in Hungary? Strictly speaking , the matter is defined by law, but in everyday language, everything pre-dating 1711 which is a product of human endeavour and which is below ground, together with its environment remaining in an original condition. There are many archaeological sites in the Carpathian Basin, though those which can at least partly be opened to the public are far fewer. Characteristically, territories after periods of major constructions using lasting materials remained here, namely from the Roman and the medieval eras, and thus the majority of Hungarian presentation sites relate to those periods. A special category of these sites – which essentially identifies only a given archaeological site’s presentation – is the relatively new Archaeological Park, although in effect they have existed in Hungary a long time. What does that mean? From a museological perspective the notion has existed for just a couple of decades. There is currently no accepted Hungarian or international definition. In fact, in the case of Hungary legally there is no such museum institute. Considering the situation across Europe and Hungary, the picture is very mixed. The spectrum ranges from a simple garden of ruins to a wellness hotel, and they are often mixed up – even by specialists – with theme parks, which in reality don’t contain original elements and can much rather be considered historical Disneylands. Between the two there is a very narrow boundary and archaeological parks try to introduce theme park attractions, of which perhaps the best-known example is Carnuntum (Bad Deutsch Altenburg, Austria). Highlighting the common elements, in Europe today the following define an archaeological park: it is situated in the area of a significant archaeological site; the site’s relics which can be displayed (mainly built, protected elements) are prominent and are its main characteristic; the affected area is landscaped, occasionally with the landscape reconstructed; a degree of intervention (protective roof, exhibition, reconstruction, etc.) can be found in the area; its legal status is that of a museum or it is an affiliate of one, or a museum monitors it professionally; apart from culture, other possibilities for relaxation are available (a park and a play area, wellness facilities, etc.). A few words are required about its formation, since only then can the differing circumstances, development and potentials of the locations and institutes be comprehended. Most commonly, the characteristic origin of almost all older archaeological parks was a garden of ruins. The other type is clearly represented by Pompei in Italy and its opening to the public in 1763. In actual fact, these two types of origin with different degrees form the basis of all currently existing archaeological parks.