24th June 2012 – 3rd March 2013
Excavation is permitted evidenced the reality of archaeological work during the large-scale excavations of the last few decades. Today an archaeological excavation is an operation involving heavy engineering carried out urgently under pressure from concrete mixer trucks. In the field archaeologists not only use trowels and brushes but also direct excavators. And after the excavation the studies carried out in the laboratories become increasingly important. As a matter of fact, archaeology is a collective operation in which specialists from very diverse sciences participate.
Conceived by the Laténium team together with collaborators from the Archéologie cantonale neuchâteloise, the exhibition “Excavation is permitted” tried out a new experience. This experience involved parents and children, alone or with family, in a large symbolic excavation in order to share the emotions linked to discovery and to trigger the curiosity of the archaeologist latent in each of us … Visitors were involved in questions, responses and role plays and experienced the archaeological methods and techniques that were based on the major results of the large-scale excavations carried out on the A5 highway.
The highway excavations in the canton of Neuchâtel carried out between 1964 and the beginning of the 21st century represent the largest archaeological operation ever carried out in Switzerland. These preventive investigations brought together dozens of archaeologists and teams of up to 200 people. They resulted in numerous discoveries which have revolutionised our knowledge about the region’s past and triggered technical innovations and methodological advances that marked the European history of archaeology.
In parallel to the exhibition the Laténium held an exhibition of photographs on the human aspect of archaeological excavations. Based on the works of Yves André, Thomas Jantscher, Marc Juillard, Renaud Sterchi and Jacques Roethlisberger, the Laténium highlighted the personal views of these five photographers on the realities of everyday archaeological experiences and on the changes to the landscape during the excavation programme.
Occupying the large spaces of the permanent exhibition at the Laténium these large-scale photos celebrated the return of the excavators to the museum. Nearly a decade after the achievement of the large-scale excavations on the A5 highway, the women and men who had contributed to the rediscovery of our past and to the conservation of our heritage thus joined the treasures that they had discovered which constitute the richness of the Laténium’s collections.