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Reinforcing protection of underwater heritage

The world’s leading academics, experts and underwater archaeologists will look at ways to improve protection of underwater heritage at a meeting to be held at the Belgian Royal Library in Brussels from 13 to 14 December. The event will mark the tenth anniversary of UNESCOs Convention on the Protection of Underwater Heritage. 

Diver with a Greek amphora [Credit: Big Blue Tech]
An estimated three million wrecks lie on the bottom of the world’s oceans. More than 150 sunken cities lie off the shores of the Mediterranean alone – some as big as Pompei and up to 5,000 years old. Yet these sites and the stories of human history that they tell are in danger. Pillaging, salvaging, oil-exploration and drilling, shore-front development and construction are just a few of the threats facing this remarkable heritage. 

The Brussels meeting will bring together over 200 participants to review the situation and look at ways of safeguarding these sites, and the role of the Convention. Key speakers include Michel L’Hour, from the Department of Underwater and Undersea Archaeological research (France), Xavier Nieto Prieto, Director of the National Museum for Underwater Archaeology (Spain), Iain Shepherd, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of the European Commission. 

The event will be preceded on the evening of 12 December by a conference open to the general public entitled “Amazing History Underwater”. Three renowned archeologists will share their experiences working on major underwater sites.  James Delgado of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA, USA), will speak about the wreck of the Titanic; Kenzo Hayashida from the Asian Research Institute for Underwater Archaeology will discuss Kublai Khan’s vanished fleet; and Nicolas Flemming from the National Oceanographic Centre of South Hampton (UK) will talk about sunken cities. 

The Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural heritage was adopted by UNESCO’s General Conference in 2001. It recognizes the need to ensure that this sunken heritage receives the same level of protection as terrestrial heritage, and sets out basic principles and rules on how it should be protected. It has been ratified so far by 40 States.  

Source: UNESCO [December 01, 2011]

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