Rue Joseph II, 99 ground floor meeting room 12.30-14.00 (sandwiches provided)
The presentation of 45 minutes would be followed by a discussion
Underwater cultural heritage encompasses some three million ancient shipwrecks, thousands of sunken cities and ports and uncountable prehistoric sites on now submerged landscapes. Examples are the 150 ancient cities submerged in the Mediterranean, the Lusitania and Titanic wrecks, the lighthouse ruins in Alexandria (one of the Seven Wonders of the antique world), as well as the ancient human dwellings found in Austrian, Swiss and German lakes recently inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
This submerged heritage is endangered, but yet insufficiently protected, known and researched.
Many, even if not all, European States have been among the pioneers in the development of dive devices and underwater archaeological research. While however the access to sites did over the last decades become easier, underwater archaeology continues to remain a developing discipline with little means and staff at hand. The policy in the protection of sites and in the pursuit of pillaging has in many States (and with exceptions) not followed the true needs. Often also the perception of underwater cultural heritage as heritage in its own right has not yet developed. This has led to important heritage losses and damages by pillaging and commercial exploitation. This situation also missed out the true potentials of underwater heritage.
The concerned European States are taking this issue more and more at heart. Many of them have become States Parties to the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, and have become fervent supporters of this treaty and the work of UNESCO to protect this heritage.
Indeed, underwater heritage holds promising potentials. Underwater sites preserve up to 15 times more biological material than similar terrestrial sites. They also include less ‘set-up’ information than land-based sites, which very often are constituted of graves and monuments, and offer a broader view of past everyday life through the often catastrophic circumstances of site immersion. Their scientific and educational information is hence immense. Moreover does this heritage hold important chances for urban development and tourism. Especially coastal regions as well as SIDS States can greatly profit from an increase in the cultural and recreational offer provided by the valorization of underwater cultural heritage. A strong public interest in the preservation and research in the maritime and prehistoric past of Europe does also suggest that underwater heritage should come stronger into the focus of the competent European authorities.
UNESCO is worldwide known for its heritage protection activities. It has become a trademark for safeguarding and valorizing humanity’s legacy and works to better protect submerged heritage. It is supported by a strong force of partnering international institutions, experts, museums and eleven leading NGOs working in the field of underwater archaeology. A UNESCO/UNITWIN Network for Underwater Archaeology Programme associates moreover leading universities to the organization. The main professional associations in archaeology and underwater archaeology have officially endorsed UNESCO’s 2001 Convention.
A lunchtime conference will give you the possibility to meet with UNESCO experts and scientists working in underwater cultural heritage research on 23 September 2013