The Junta de Castilla y León and the CENIEH agree to enhance the use of the materials from Atapuerca

The two institutions have signed a collaboration agreement with the objective of working together on the conservation and management of the collections from the archaeo-paleontological sites of the Sierra de Atapuerca, and to thus consolidate and enhance the museum and scientific use made of the materials from these sites in Burgos

This morning, the President of the Junta, Mr. Juan Vicente Herrera, chaired the signing ceremony for an agreement between the Junta de Castilla y León and the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana, CENIEH, whose objective is to continue improving the management of one of Europe's most important cultural assets: the archaeological sites of the Sierra de Atapuerca.

More particularly, this covenant determines how this Center will participate in the collection management and research programs of the Atapuerca System, and an action framework is established to render compatible both museum and scientific use of the paleontological and archaeological materials from these emblematic sites in Burgos, guaranteeing their proper conservation and management.

This agreement represents a further step toward completion of the integrated model for the management of Atapuerca, construing it as a broad system for science, archaeology and outreach. This is a unified management model which makes conservation of this Cultural Heritage possible, it promotes research into and enrichment of these assets, and encourages and safeguards access to them: a major cultural and scientific enterprise which the Junta de Castilla y León has been supporting constantly, and which places the Region in an outstanding position in the area of science and culture.

To meet the commitments arising out of this covenant, investments by the CENIEH for an estimated amount of 458,000 euros are envisaged, as well as current expenses assessed at 25,000 euros per annum, and a Committee is created to track it, made up of 2 representatives of each party.

Access to the collections

Over recent years, the teams responsible for the research undertaken at the CENIEH have already been using paleontological and archaeological materials from the excavations at Atapuerca for their scientific activities, but a permanent framework for collaboration is established under the auspices of this agreement, which will simplify and streamline access to the collections as a normal practice.

The covenant will facilitate the continuation of the scientific work founded on the archaeological and paleontological research, and will also allow the collections to be made available to the scientific community and for public enjoyment. In summary, a further step forward has been taken in coordinating this endeavor, founded upon the collaborative work between the three signatory institutions: the Junta (its Consejería with competences in Cultural Heritage and Museums), the Fundación Siglo (manager of the Museo de la Evolución Humana, MEH), and the Consorcio CENIEH.

This collaboration is going to allow deposit of the different collections of archaeological remains at the CENIEH scientific complex, as shall be proposed by the Consejería de Cultura y Turismo and by the Center, bearing in mind the scientific and museum purposes of these holdings and the needs and capacity of the institutions. In addition, the covenant acknowledges the priority of the exhibition program of the MEH for displaying the holdings assigned to that Museum, to the extent that these meet the technical criteria for availability, as determined by its scientific team.

Through this agreement, the CENIEH assumes a permanent role in the conservation, restoration, investigation, guarantee of access to researchers and documentation of the holdings deposited there. By means of periodic meetings between the parties, the orderly intake of those remains and collections which may be agreed shall be proposed. In all cases, the Junta de Castilla y León shall retain ownership and competences over the findings and over any possible temporary loan outside the Region, among other matters.

In particular, the availability of the CENIEH to carry out work of custody, conservation, restoration and scientific research for the holdings from Atapuerca is facilitated, including items which already form part of the museum collection of the Region (a procedure and estimated schedule for the deliveries for deposit over the covenant's first 4 years in effect is envisaged); those belonging to the specific collection of the MEH, and the new holdings entering from this moment on.

In this process, the CENIEH may collaborate with the Museo de Burgos, always under the supervision of the latter, both in the preparatory treatments and work for the items before handover, and in their delivery and deposit at its facilities.

Project of worldwide importance

Last year, 2018, the fortieth anniversary of the first excavations at the Trinchera del Ferrocarril was celebrated. Over this period, Atapuerca has become a scientific project of worldwide importance, offering responses to questions on human origins, from the historical, biological and genetic points of view.

Among the major milestones have been the declaration of Atapuerca as an Asset of Cultural Interest (BIC) by the Junta, in the category of Archaeological Zone, in 1991; its declaration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 2000; the inception in 2009 of the CENIEH, and the inauguration of the MEH in the year 2010, these making up, together with the Atapuerca Research Team and its three co-directors, the Atapuerca System.

As highlighted by the President of the Junta de Castilla y León, one of the greatest collective cultural enterprises in Spain is being developed around Atapuerca which, especially over the last 20 years, has been demanding major scientific, administrative, financial and management efforts, necessitating ever greater coordination. From the scientific point of view, it can count on the continuance of a Research Team which has always been equal to the extraordinary quality of the sites and findings at Atapuerca.

From the administrative perspective, over this period, it has been endowed with an array of highly valuable instruments and equipment. As part of this, the MEH was created, which is the property of the Junta and is managed by the Fundación Siglo, and which offers us the opportunity to enjoy some of the most spectacular pieces from the sites. Today it is one of the most popular (over 150,000 visitors in 2018) and most culturally active (more than 250,000 participants the same year) science museums in Spain.

The CENIEH was also created and put into operation: the participants in this consortium are the Spanish Government, the Junta and the Universidad de Burgos, and it is classed as a Unique Scientific and Technical Infrastructure (ICTS), the only one in Spain in the area of social sciences and humanities, with a current workforce of 57 professionals.

The Atapuerca System was also constituted, a keystone of integration and cooperation, which is led by the MEH, incorporates the CENIEH as an "affiliate center", and includes the "satellite centers" at Atapuerca and at Ibeas de Juarros, next to the existing facilities at the sites themselves. The UBU and the Fundación Atapuerca also participate in this System as "associate centers".

From the financial point of view, the effort has also been highly significant, and it will continue to be so for the ordinary operation of all the foregoing, with around 160 million euros of public investment to date, 120 million of this committed by the Junta, making Burgos the host of the world's most complete network of locations and equipment for human evolution today.

This year, a new Agreement, already authorized by the Junta last September, is pending approval by the Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades, and this will guarantee contributions of more than 12 million euros to the CENIEH for its operation, between the two public authorities, for the period 2019 to 2021.