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14 July 2008
Norwegian ancient sites are being destroyed

Burial mounds, rock carvings, ancient dwellings and other cultural heritage sites are increasingly being destroyed in Norway by new roads, agriculture and building sites. The number of criminal investigations connected with laws protecting Norway's archaeological heritage is at an all-time high. Not all the losses are the result of criminal activity. Dispensations from the rules and natural erosion also take their toll.
     Usually by the time specialists are called in, the damage has already been done. "We are sometimes able to save what remains but we cannot fix what has been destroyed. The fines are far too lenient and prison sentences are hardly ever given," says Perry Rolfsen at the Cultural History Museum in Oslo.
     Surveys carried out by the authorities show that cultural heritage sites are under pressure. Both private and public construction projects ignore buried archaeological artefacts to avoid hold-ups and extra costs. Some gamble on not being caught, while others pretend that they were unaware of what lay in their way.
     The Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage is working to achieve the government aim of minimizing loss of archaeological sites by 2020. "Much of what is lost is through ignorance or misunderstanding. However we also see cases where owners or local authorities have been fined for breaking the antiquity laws on purpose," says Sjur Helseth, acting head of the Cultural Heritage agency.

Source: Aftenposten (9 July 2008)

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