Sillamäe to receive €74,000 from state to cover archaeological work

Archaeological excavations in Sillamäe village cemetery.
Archaeological excavations in Sillamäe village cemetery. Source: Linda Vilumets

The Ministry of Culture is to foot most of the bill for the excavation of human remains found during the reconstruction of a street in Sillamäe, Ida-Viru County.

A cemetery dating from the 17th-18th century and containing the remains of 118 people was found during the street work during the summer.

Excavating one individual skeleton cost close to €800, and as a result the Sillamäe authorities asked for compensation from the state. Archaeological work, which held up the roadworks unexpectedly, cost a total of €92,040.

The Ministry of Culture proposed sharing the burden of costs to a ratio of 80:20, meaning the national government would pay €73,632 and the city's government the remaining €18,408.

As the center of Sillamäe is neither a cultural monument nor a heritage protection area, the city could not apply for money from the National Heritage Board (Muinsuskaitseamet). According to the Heritage Protection Act, however, the excavated bones still belong to the state.

The existence of the cemetery was unknown to archaeologists prior to the work starting, making it an unexpected find and meaning the street construction had to be temporarily stopped over the summer.

Known or suspected archaeological sites, a frequent occurence when building or street construction work takes place in Tallinn, follow a process whereby the archaeologists work in cooperation with city authorities and the private sector, in order to retrieve any artifacts properly while minimizing delay to the planned work.

Recent examples of this include the construction of Reidi tee in the capital, which finished late in 2019 and whose work yielded remains a Crimean War-era* coastal artillery battery and World War Two-era ammunition dumps - the latter subject to extra safety procedures.

* Which saw one theater of operations in the Baltic Sea.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino, Andrew Whyte

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