- Archaeological discoveries during construction works are a frequent cause of investment delays, and sometimes may even preclude their completion.
- In Poland, each find requires strict cooperation between the party responsible for the investment and the conservator.
- The natural person or organizational unit intending to carry out earthmoving is obliged to cover the costs of archaeological research and its documentation.
A wooden well from 300 years ago found during the work on the second metro line in Warsaw, ancient Lusatian settlement from 3 thousand years ago discovered during construction of the gas pipeline between Sulmierzyce and Gołków, or parts of gothic walls and wooden patrician housing from XVI at the construction site of a hotel in the Tricity are examples of numerous archaeological finds encountered by general contractors only in the last year. Representatives of the construction industry often discover the treasures hidden in the earth, which may pose many problems to investors.
The law takes the side of finds
Each find in the territory of the Republic of Poland requires strict cooperation between the general contractor of the investment and the conservator, as specifically regulated in the Act of 23 July 2003 on the Protection and Care of Monuments.
– Its provisions clearly set out the obligations of an investor who, in the course of construction or earthmoving works, encounters an object presumed to be a monument. Article 32 of the Act requires that all works which might damage or destroy the discovered object be interrupted, that the object be secured by all available means and the fact be promptly reported to the competent regional conservator, and if it is not possible – to the mayor of the municipality or city – says Jacek Kosiński, managing partner in the law firm Jacek Kosiński Advocates and Legal Advisers.
Archaeological works may hold back the investment
Once the find is reported, the voivodeship conservator is obliged, within 5 days, to make an inspection of the discovered object. If the conservator fails to inspect the excavation within that deadline, the interrupted works may be resumed.
– Also after the inspection, the conservator may permit continuation of the suspended works if the discovered object is not a monument or if further construction will not lead to its injury. However, if it turns out that the find is valuable, the conservator may order further suspension of works and implementation, at the cost of the natural person or organizational unit financing the works, of archaeological research to the extent necessary, as well as preparation of documentation of such research. The suspension of works may not, however, last longer than a month of the date of service of the decision. Yet, if the discovered monument is of exceptional value, the conservator may interrupt the investment even for half a year – adds Jacek Kosiński.
Where it is impossible to examine the entire area intended for construction, the conservator may appoint continuous archaeological surveillance for the area of works for the duration of the earthmoving operations, and an archaeologist prepares a report on the activities undertaken. It is worth noting that, depending on the character of the find, also other institutions may be engaged at the construction site. This refers, for instance, to situations when unexploded ordnance or remnants of war are found – on such occasions sappers are called to the construction site.
The conservator may also order the find to be left alone
All historical elements found in the earth belong to the state and are taken over by proper institutions. Small items, such as coins or vessels are taken from their place of discovery and, once examined by historians, usually end up in museums. However, if the objects found at the construction site are, e.g., parts of a settlement or ruins of a construction from several centuries ago, the conservator may order their demolition so that they do not obstruct the implementation of further investment stages. It happens, however, that because of the immense value of the discovery, the conservator orders to leave the monument where it was found. In such situations, the investor may resign from further works or properly secure the archaeological find and integrate it into the new building. The construction industry knows many examples of monuments adapted to the needs of contemporary designs.