Maggie Ronayne, Junior Representative (National University of Ireland, Republic of Ireland)

The first part of this document is a written version of an oral report which I presented to the Executive meeting on 8 January 1999 at WAC 4. It takes account, in particular, of a number of concerns raised with me by members from the region in the months preceding WAC 4. The middle section reports on the outcome of various issues, relevant to the main concerns expressed by WAC members from Northern Europe and a couple of other items which arose at WAC 4. Finally, the last section details some of the work which has gone on in the region since WAC 4, outlining some important ongoing issues for members to note. As listed in WAB 9, the countries in the Northern Europe region are: Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Republic of Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom.

Report to WAC 4

The main problem in Northern Europe in the last four years has been the lack of interest in membership in-between the major congresses of WAC. From feedback I received, this seems to be related to a perception among some that the issues of WAC are not directly relevant to Northern Europe as such but are ‘global’ or related to indigenous peoples, or people living in de-colonised countries. For others, the relevance was clear but their reluctance to join was connected with the controversy that surrounded WAC in the wake of its third congress in New Delhi, with a perception among politicised students and, indeed, professionals that WAC was failing to deal effectively with realpolitik. A third perception was that WAC did not offer a real opportunity for people to get actively involved at ground level, in terms of the expense of getting to the congresses, the flow of information, the lack of translation facilities and the over-centralisation of the operation in the UK.

These issues, rather than the narrower focus on membership numbers, need to be addressed urgently, particularly in relation to the role of junior representatives and the regional representatives in general.

In 1997, I attempted to do just that by setting up a network of ‘correspondents’ in the region who would report to, and work with, me on issues arising in their areas which were of concern to WAC. These could then be dealt with through regional campaigns or more broadly by means of publicity in WAC news. The initiative did not work however. There were three main problems which were, firstly, that it was extremely difficult to establish any kind of regular contacts with WAC members in some countries. Secondly, the few who initially responded allowed the contact to lapse. But thirdly, this falling off of contact and difficulties of communication are not unresolvable but were mainly due to problems with the structural nature of WAC in Northern Europe itself. Because there is no relationship between WAC as a ‘global’ entity and different issues and struggles over the past at ground level, people are unsure as to where they stand, as the membership, in organising campaigns in the name of WAC and so on. There is also an uncertainty as to what kinds of issues would constitute WAC issues.

During the past four years WAC has continued to display posters and leaflets at conferences like the Theoretical Archaeology Group Conference and reports of conferences attended by WAC members in Northern Europe have been forwarded to WAC News for publication at various times. WAC was also represented at the Archaeologists Against Development meeting at Newbury in England which was part of a protest by environmental groups. A number of cases relating to the repatriation of indigenous remains from European museums arose and were dealt with by indigenous representatives, Officers of WAC, and members of WAC with expertise in this area (particular thanks must go to Dr Cressida Fforde in this regard). The latest work is on the case of Saartje Baartman, a Khoisan woman who was taken to Europe and exhibited both before and after her death in 1815. Her body was studied, displayed and stored in Paris. The WAC Executive passed a resolution demanding the return of her remains to South Africa, at the inter-congress in Croatia in 1998.

After this inter-congress, several members in the Northern Europe region responded to another call to discuss or suggest issues which need to be dealt with in WAC. In the main, these concerned aspects of the organisation itself which they were unhappy with or wanted to see change in. The issue of the public accountability of the organisation (including its finances) was raised. There was concern about the ethics and politics of its publication policy, e.g. contractual arrangements with publishers. The need for a greater degree of openness and bottom-up decision-making on all issues between the officers, executive and members was another issue which people felt strongly about. It was also suggested that there was a need for more widespread, and timely circulation of documents before meetings where decisions are taken. Overall, several members seemed to think that there was a need for changes to the statutes to accommodate such concerns. Executive members were asked to give four priorities from each region to be presented for discussion in the meeting. The four points below were those I suggested.

WAC activities need to be integrated more with issues concerning the past, the various groups of people who define themselves in relation to that past and the problems of the archaeological profession which are central to Northern Europe. The links with indigenous issues, the politics of race, imperialism and so on can be made across several areas so that the relevance of WAC, in all sorts of struggles over the past around the world, can be seen in relation to more localised or specific struggles. In Northern Europe, for instance, there are problems relating to archaeological contract labour which could be related to similar problems in other regions. Or struggles over race, gender and nationality in the archaeological, historical or heritage workplace in Europe could be related to similar activities in other regions. At the moment, there seems to be a danger of a ‘west and the rest’ perception of WAC activities and goals. Such an integration would remove at least part of the problem – with the focus of WAC on a world congress – which most students, and, I would venture to say, most archaeological fieldworkers on temporary contracts and most people with an interest in the past, cannot afford to get to.

WAC in Northern Europe needs to move towards a greater localised visibility in terms of information and support media. This would help a great deal in generating awareness about the kinds of issues which can be reported to the regional representative, with developing a climate of openness about WAC procedures and business and the role of the membership in that business. It could also be linked to other non-WAC media as a means of drawing attention to action on those issues which will arise. Since it is often said that Northern Europe is one of the advantaged regions when it comes to IT access, we should use this historical situation to distribute information and possibly, to provide information sites and generate support through various campaigns for matters arising in other regions. This visibility could involve the setting up of a regional web-site with a link to the main WAC site and to those of other regions.

With this move towards localisation of information and activity the structure of the regional representative system and local membership would need to change. A system of reporting by a series of ‘correspondents’ or by the membership would work better with some devolution to the regions of what has previously been Executive work. Having spent four years as Junior Representative (but in a region where the Senior Representative was not active), it has been my experience that it takes more than one or two people to work on and administer the various WAC matters arising. The details of this are obviously complex but it would seem that in order to get people actively involved, some kind of move towards a more substantive democratic organisation is necessary.

It will be necessary to deal with the problem of the perceived failure of WAC to deal with controversies it has been involved in. This will have to be dealt with through open debates in journals, on mail lists and so on at all the different levels that WAC members themselves work at. It must be a rigorous historicization which results in concrete action and change at regional and local levels.


The issues outlined by members were all raised in Executive and Council meetings. Since most of them concern some element of structural change, I will relate what has happened first of all to the proposals to change the statutes. The proposals for substantial change to the statutes of the organisation resulted mainly from the debate at the inter-congress in Croatia. A resolution proposed at the plenary session of that inter-congress called for consideration of such changes, and was noted by the WAC Executive. The Executive then called for position papers and two were submitted by September 1998, one by the Officers and some Executive members, and one by a WAC member from Northern Europe, Willy Kitchen. The Officers’ paper was proposed as a series of amendments to the statutes. During WAC 4 the Executive noted that both documents had been submitted and a workshop for all members was organised by the former WAC Secretary, Julian Thomas, where the position papers were discussed. Due to disagreement on the kind and amount of structural change required and also because many WAC members, including members who found themselves elected to Council, complained that they had not received copies of proposed changes and position papers, the whole debate was postponed. A couple of changes were passed by Council. One of these created an elected post of Vice-President and five un-elected vice-presidential posts. Another resolution passed made changes to the regional electoral colleges and how they are constituted. So, WAC members will get the chance to raise points in the debate about the statutes which will take place, presumably through this publication and in other forums, over the next couple of years. To begin, I propose that both the position papers submitted before WAC 4 are published in WAB (with amendments if the authors wish) and written comments and further position papers are invited from the entire membership.

In relation to the accountability of the organisation, I raised both the issue of the finances of the organisation and the ethics of publication with the rest of the Executive. There seemed to be a strong feeling that there ought to be more regionalization on membership fees and other issues, in order to suit different socio-economies and regional priorities. Others wanted to stick with a universal model as it exists now. It was explained that the WAC Charitable Company is a separate organisation to WAC itself, although the officers of WAC are members of its Board. The full Board consists of the members of the original organising committee of WAC 1, the President, Secretary and Treasurer of WAC and one other member to be elected by the Executive. A further three directors are nominated by the country which hosts the next WAC Congress. It controls the advances and royalties from the One World Archaeology (OWA) series of books. Further, it was suggested that WAC could not really explore other publishing or financial options as it relies on the royalties from this series. It could however get reductions on these and other publications. It was agreed that WAC members will now receive a reduced subscription to the new journal, Public Archaeology.

Executive members from other regions also took the opportunity to stress that their members, potential members and indigenous workers could not afford such books, or indeed read them because of a lack of attention in WAC to translation difficulties. I also raised the matter of restrictive contractual arrangements involved in dealing with major publishing companies and gave the example of the recent dispute about the OWA volume from the Croatian inter-congress. There was considerable sympathy in the Executive for Professor Shrimali’s situation in wanting to publish some of the papers in a non-profit journal in India where they would have a useful effect but being precluded by the prior arrangement between WAC, the WAC Charitable Company and Routledge. The Executive suggested that I propose a resolution to Council that a standing committee should be set up, drawn from the membership, to deal with the ethics and politics of publication in WAC. Due to time constraints, I was precluded from putting this as a resolution at Council but following a brief summary of the situation, Council agreed that the formation of the committee should go ahead. The President of WAC stressed, in noting this agreement, that it was important that the members of the committee be drawn from interested parties in the entire membership of WAC rather than from the Executive. I will administer the setting up of this committee (though as an Executive member I should not sit on it) through the next WAB.

A resolution was put to council on the matter of the plans of English Heritage for Stonehenge in the UK. Because many Council members were not aware of the details of this particular issue, the resolution was not passed by Council and it was referred to the Executive. The Executive instructed two WAC members to compile a report on the matter so that the Executive and Officers could take any action necessary. In relation to this matter and other resolutions on cultural property, a task force was also set up on the destruction of cultural property in conflict situations. It was agreed that areas to be covered may include tourism as well as war and post-war situations. Again, I am administering this for the convenor of the task force, Henry Mutoro of the University of Zimbabwe, and I will be reporting on its brief in the next WAB.

In relation to communication, it remains difficult to get the necessity of translation recognised and most of those not in favour of seriously pursuing the matter (on Council and in the Executive) referred to the expense involved. It does look, however, as if an attempt will be made at WAC 5 to deal with this issue. WAC has also received an offer from an academic internet service provider called H-Net to set up email discussion lists, bulletin boards and other services for free. This has already been accomplished for the WAC Officers and developments with regard to the Executive and the membership are awaited. The possibility of this becoming a commercial operation, being used to advertise to WAC members, was raised as well as the possible exclusion of people who do not have internet access. The President of WAC suggested that while it was unfortunately true that a lot of people still do not have access to the internet, this situation would change radically in the future. Meanwhile every effort would be made to make sure everyone was still included in the flow of information in WAC. He suggested that commercialisation of this service was not a worry but that WAC would, in any case, review its relationship with H-net if such a situation arose.

Two documents were presented to Council on the future objectives of WAC which readers will have noticed were published in WAB 9. As a co-author of the second document, I should explain that the action of producing an alternative agenda was taken in order to make the point that such issues should not be decided by the Executive, but by the full membership. These decisions should happen after a debate either ‘live’ involving a fully-briefed Council, or through the pages of WAB and it should involve the full, public presentation of all positions. The specific suggestions made in both documents are just that, suggestions. Other suggestions may be made which, along with the two documents so far, need to be debated and voted on by the membership before any point made may have the status of ‘policy’. The President of WAC made the point in Council that both documents, rather than just the ‘majority’ document should be published in WAB so that wider consultation would take place and he set this as a precedent for all future policy documents.

Council has also agreed that the WAC Executive and Officers should pursue affiliation with UNESCO. The WAC 4 Council minutes will be sent to UNESCO as a part of this bid. In addition, Council at WAC 4 was given instruction by the President that when deciding whether to adopt, note, amend, refer or reject a resolution, Council should refer to UNESCO policy on each particular issue, as a guideline.

Post-WAC 4

In the aftermath of WAC 4, I was contacted by WAC members on temporary contracts in field archaeology. On their behalf I wrote to the organising committee of the Theoretical Archaeology Group conference held in the UK every December, outlining WAC’s position on the historical and social role, and the political context of archaeological enquiry. I requested that the dates of the conference be changed to accommodate those who could not attend during the week without losing pay. I suggested that if this could not be done, that the point be discussed in the TAG open meeting and the TAG National Committee meeting, both of which will be held at the conference. In 1998, the conference had been organised over a weekend and this had allowed contracted fieldworkers to attend. There had also been a session on issues in fieldwork which had attempted to follow up on previous theoretical discussion of the field/academia divide in archaeology. Cardiff TAG have not been able to change the dates of their conference but have agreed to discussion in the meetings mentioned above. It would be useful if as many WAC members as possible who are attending TAG could come along to the open meeting and add their voices in support. In addition, I would like any members of the TAG National Committee who are WAC members to contact me beforehand.

The report on the English Heritage Masterplan for Stonehenge was prepared by June 1999. It was then suggested that this would be submitted to English Heritage as WAC policy and a press release was to be prepared to that effect. In addition, I was asked by the CEO of WAC to present it as such to a public meeting on the Stonehenge Masterplan organised by RESCUE (The Trust for British Archaeology). I refused on the basis that the rest of the Executive and the rest of the WAC membership had not had sight of such proposals; this was ‘a report to the Executive’ by two WAC members, rather than policy (which may only be decided on by the Council of WAC). I attended the meeting in a personal capacity and it is certainly true that this Masterplan contains several elements which clash with the WAC position on cultural property as outlined in the statutes, codes and various resolutions of the organisation. The plan is expected to take nine years to implement, with a series of consultative and/or review stages, and as such there would have been ample time for everyone in WAC to have sight of the report and proposals through WAB, before a decision was made. I conveyed to one of the authors of the report, to the CEO and to the President of WAC the concerns of some members who had taken the trouble to contact me about the compiling of this report and these proposals. In particular, it was felt that the consultation, both during and after the completion of the report, had not been widespread at all. I received responses from the CEO and the President of WAC, taking note of this and other concerns. As the proposals have already been submitted to English Heritage and a press release sent out, these points would not appear to have been taken on board. In any case, the full report is 21 pages long and if any members wish to see it, they can contact me and I will send on copies.

I received a request for support from activists in India who are fighting the forced removal of indigenous people in the Narmada valley. A campaign was organised this summer, over some of the UK email discussion lists, to write letters of protest to the President of India concerning the effects of the Narmada dam. Under the Indian constitution, the President of India has powers to halt any project which harms indigenous people. This was an issue on which WAC has been involved since WAC 3 in New Delhi. It was thought that a stay had been granted by the courts on further construction on the project, which would have raised the level of the dam by several metres to a point which meant almost certain flooding of the lands and homes of thousands of indigenous people. The legal stay was removed earlier this year however. The increased level of the dam has been disastrous this monsoon with thousands being threatened with homelessness. In addition, many indigenous people, tired of broken promises by the BJP-led government, were refusing to move in advance of the flood waters with the possibility that many could die. The situation is ongoing.

An opportunity arose in July to attend a briefing meeting in the House of Commons (the lower house of the British Parliament) in the UK on the Ilisu dam project in Southern Turkey. A British construction company and possibly the UK government are involved with this controversial project (see the forthcoming report in WAB 11 for details).

All in all, several WAC issues are ongoing in Northern Europe. If anyone has any suggestions on these or other problems in the region, wants to draw anything to the attention of WAC (urgent or otherwise), or has been working on a WAC issue independently, please do not hesitate to contact me. In particular, if there is anyone who wants to give some time to translate short documents of interest to WAC members into other languages, this would be of great help. Even better would be anyone who can come up with a plan for a more regularised translation network. Most importantly, I would welcome suggestions for and help with re-organising WAC action and the WAC workload more openly and more collectively in the region.

For more details on these and all of the resolutions passed by council at WAC4, see the WAC web-site. Those who do not have access to the world-wide-web, please contact me and I will download the information and send it to you.