The Project  
 Projects of the Partners  
 The Forum  
 Virtual Exhibition  

Culture 2000

European Union


National Heritage Board

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 of Culture.

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 as follows:

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 of finds.

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.


design: Kai M. Wurm
menu back print