The National Heritage Board is the principal government body in Estonia, which
is charged with the direction of conservation activity and state supervision,
identification and protection of properties and objects of cultural value and
maintaining records of state cultural monuments. It was established in July
1993 and is administered by the Director General. The Board is divided into
four divisions: administration, division of expertise, division of supervision
and division of export of cultural objects. The total number of employees in
the NHB is 42.
Cultural, historical, architectural and archaeological heritage and objects
of art are registered in the national register of monuments, the keeping of
which lies on the National Heritage Board. The register is approved by the Ministry
List of additions to the register is regularly published in Riigi Teataja
(government newsletter) and can be consulted at the web-site of the National
Heritage Board at http://www.muinas.ee
Cultural heritage in Estonia is divided into four parts, the Cultural Heritage
Act specifying protection measures for each division.
State protected cultural monuments in Estonia in the year 2001 were registered
Archaeological sites and monuments: 6542
Art objects: 11 891
Historical monuments: 1137
Listed buildings: 5115
Industrial heritage: 33
TOTAL: 24 718
Conservation areas: 12
Restoration and preservation work and archaeological excavations on monuments
are allowed by companies or individuals who have obtained a licence. Licences
are issued and the work is supervised by the National Heritage Board.
Licences are issued for the period of one year, but are renewable based on
the results of the previous work.
The list of licensed enterprises is found at the homepage of the National
Heritage Board at http://www.muinas.ee.
Extensive co-operation exists between the National Heritage Board and other
organisations with similar ideologies (Heritage Society, Union of Estonian War
Graves Care, Estonian Museums Association etc.). Co-operation with international
heritage protection organisations like UNESCO, ICOMOS, ICOM, DOCOMOMO, Europa
Nostra, the European Cultural Foundation etc. is getting stronger every year.
Archaeological survey, inventory and research
Estonia´s territory (ca 45 000 km²) and its geographical conditions
are sufficiently favourable for archaeological surveys. To check out an urgent
report an archaeologist can reach any corner of the country in the course of
the same day. The diversity (cultivated land, forests, wetlands, the sea) and
spread of different formations of the landscape and the comparatively precise
scale of land rise facilitate archaeological search and the preliminary dating
By today, systematic archaeological search in landscape has been carried out
for more than a century in Estonia. As a result, 6542 archaeological monuments
dating from the Mesolithic period to the 18th century have been identified and
listed. New finds are reported almost every week, whereas most of the reports
refer to hitherto unknown archaeological sites. There are about twenty different
types of ancient monuments and sites in Estonia: 124 hillforts, 813 iron age
settlement sites, 78 complexes of ancient fields, 25 iron smelting places, 1866
burial mounds (cairn graves), 950 barrows, 549 village cemeteries, 58 churchyards,
1585 cup-marked cult stones, 415 sacrificial stones, trees, springs etc.
There can be no fixed age when defining an archaeological monument, it varies
in every case. The latest may be 18th century village cemeteries,
but also trees and springs, which have been used for sacrificing since the beginning
of the 20th century.
Special mention should be made of the formation of urban protected zones and
designation of them as heritage conservation areas in eleven historical
urban centres. Nine of them have preserved and protected their prehistoric and
mediaeval archaeological cultural layers in addition to their historic buildings.
Rebala Reserve, founded in 1979 on the eastern border of Tallinn, is an area
of national importance covering the territory of 25 km², including 15 villages
and more than 300 archaeological monuments. The reserve was created as a result
of an opposition to the rapacious excavation of phosphorite in the area. The
first remains of ancient fields in Estonia were discovered there, dating from
the beginning of the Christian era. Rebala Reserve is the only one of its kind
to have a salaried manager, financed by the National Heritage Board together
with the local municipality.
Archaeological institutions. There are different types of excavating
institutions in Estonia where altogether 50 professional archaeologists are
working: Institute of History (12 archaeologists), National Heritage Board (6
archaeologists), Tartu University (8 archaeologists), museums (8 archaeologists),
municipal governments (5 archaeologists), private enterprises for rescue excavations
(9 archaeologists). Most archaeologists have joined the Estonian Archaeological
Society and many of them are active in the preservation of the archaeological
heritage. The Heritage Conservation Advisory Panel plays a significant role
in promoting the Archaeological Society among the academic circles.