UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage
Archaeology doesn’t make any sense if it is not community-driven. Transparency is the key factor to raise the public awareness and create a public value for archaeology. Publication and primary data sharing are the most important ethical rules of this Convention. This principle is clearly stated in Title XIV of the Convention Annex (below): Projects shall provide for public education and popular presentation of the project results where appropriate.
Archaeologists that do not share their data are no better than treasure hunters.
- Obligation to Preserve Underwater Cultural Heritage – States Parties should preserve underwater cultural heritage and take action accordingly. This does not mean that ratifying States would necessarily have to undertake archaeological excavations; they only have to take measures according to their capabilities. The Convention encourages scientific research and public access.
- In Situ Preservation as first option – The in situ preservation of underwater cultural heritage (i.e. in its original location on the seafloor) should be considered as the first option before allowing or engaging in any further activities. The recovery of objects may, however, be authorized for the purpose of making a significant contribution to the protection or knowledge of underwater cultural heritage.
- No Commercial Exploitation – The 2001 Convention stipulates that underwater cultural heritage should not be commercially exploited for trade or speculation, and that it should not be irretrievably dispersed. This regulation is in conformity with the moral principles that already apply to cultural heritage on land. It is not to be understood as preventing archaeological research or tourist access.
- Training and Information Sharing – States Parties shall cooperate and exchange information, promote training in underwater archaeology and promote public awareness regarding the value and importance of Underwater Cultural Heritage.
The Convention ANNEX
Rules concerning activities directed at underwater cultural heritage
I. General principles
Rule 1. The protection of underwater cultural heritage through in situ preservation shall be considered as the first option. Accordingly, activities directed at underwater cultural heritage shall be authorized in a manner consistent with the protection of that heritage, and subject to that requirement may be authorized for the purpose of making a significant contribution to protection or knowledge or enhancement of underwater cultural heritage.
Rule 2. The commercial exploitation of underwater cultural heritage for trade or speculation or its irretrievable dispersal is fundamentally incompatible with the protection and proper management of underwater cultural heritage. Underwater cultural heritage shall not be traded, sold, bought or bartered as commercial goods.
This Rule cannot be interpreted as preventing:
(a) the provision of professional archaeological services or necessary services incidental thereto whose nature and purpose are in full conformity with this Convention and are subject to the authorization of the competent authorities;
(b) the deposition of underwater cultural heritage, recovered in the course of a research project in conformity with this Convention, provided such deposition does not prejudice the scientific or cultural interest or integrity
of the recovered material or result in its irretrievable dispersal; is in accordance with the provisions of Rules 33 and 34; and is subject to the authorization of the competent authorities.
Rule 3. Activities directed at underwater cultural heritage shall not adversely affect the underwater cultural heritage more than is necessary for the objectives of the project.
Rule 4. Activities directed at underwater cultural heritage must use nondestructive techniques and survey methods in preference to recovery of objects. If excavation or recovery is necessary for the purpose of scientific studies or for the ultimate protection of the underwater cultural heritage, the methods and techniques used must be as non-destructive as possible and contribute to the preservation of the remains.
Rule 5. Activities directed at underwater cultural heritage shall avoid the unnecessary disturbance of human remains or venerated sites.
Rule 6. Activities directed at underwater cultural heritage shall be strictly regulated to ensure proper recording of cultural, historical and archaeological information.
Rule 7. Public access to in situ underwater cultural heritage shall be promoted, except where such access is incompatible with protection and management.
Rule 8. International cooperation in the conduct of activities directed at underwater cultural heritage shall be encouraged in order to further the effective exchange or use of archaeologists and other relevant professionals.
II. Project design
Rule 9. Prior to any activity directed at underwater cultural heritage, a project design for the activity shall be developed and submitted to the competent authorities for authorization and appropriate peer review.
Rule 10. The project design shall include:
(a) an evaluation of previous or preliminary studies;
(b) the project statement and objectives;
(c) the methodology to be used and the techniques to be employed;
(d) the anticipated funding;
(e) an expected timetable for completion of the project;
(f) the composition of the team and the qualifications, responsibilities and experience of each team member;
(g) plans for post-fieldwork analysis and other activities;
(h) a conservation programme for artefacts and the site in close cooperation with the competent authorities;
(i) a site management and maintenance policy for the whole duration of the project;
(j) a documentation programme;
(k) a safety policy;
(l) an environmental policy;
(m) arrangements for collaboration with museums and other institutions, in particular scientific institutions;
(n) report preparation;
(o) deposition of archives, including underwater cultural heritage removed; and
(p) a programme for publication.
Rule 11. Activities directed at underwater cultural heritage shall be carried out in accordance with the project design approved by the competent authorities.
Rule 12. Where unexpected discoveries are made or circumstances change, the project design shall be reviewed and amended with the approval of the competent authorities.
Rule 13. In cases of urgency or chance discoveries, activities directed at the underwater cultural heritage, including conservation measures or activities for a period of short duration, in particular site stabilization, may be authorized in the absence of a project design in order to protect the underwater cultural heritage.
III. Preliminary work
Rule 14. The preliminary work referred to in Rule 10 (a) shall include an assessment that evaluates the significance and vulnerability of the underwater cultural heritage and the surrounding natural environment to damage by the proposed project, and the potential to obtain data that would meet the project objectives.
Rule 15. The assessment shall also include background studies of available historical and archaeological evidence, the archaeological and environmental characteristics of the site, and the consequences of any potential intrusion for the long-term stability of the underwater cultural heritage affected by the activities.
IV. Project objective, methodology and techniques
Rule 16. The methodology shall comply with the project objectives, and the techniques employed shall be as non-intrusive as possible.
Rule 17. Except in cases of emergency to protect underwater cultural heritage, an adequate funding base shall be assured in advance of any activity, sufficient to complete all stages of the project design, including conservation, documentation and curation of recovered artefacts, and report preparation and dissemination.
Rule 18. The project design shall demonstrate an ability, such as by securing a bond, to fund the project through to completion.
Rule 19. The project design shall include a contingency plan that will ensure conservation of underwater cultural heritage and supporting documentation in the event of any interruption of anticipated funding.
VI. Project duration – timetable
Rule 20. An adequate timetable shall be developed to assure in advance of any activity directed at underwater cultural heritage the completion of all stages of the project design, including conservation, documentation and curation of recovered underwater cultural heritage, as well as report preparation and dissemination.
Rule 21. The project design shall include a contingency plan that will ensure conservation of underwater cultural heritage and supporting documentation in the event of any interruption or termination of the project.
VII. Competence and qualifications
Rule 22. Activities directed at underwater cultural heritage shall only be undertaken under the direction and control of, and in the regular presence of, a qualified underwater archaeologist with scientific competence appropriate to the project.
Rule 23. All persons on the project team shall be qualified and have demonstrated competence appropriate to their roles in the project.
VIII. Conservation and site management
Rule 24. The conservation programme shall provide for the treatment of the archaeological remains during the activities directed at underwater cultural heritage, during transit and in the long term. Conservation shall be carried out in accordance with current professional standards.
Rule 25. The site management programme shall provide for the protection and management in situ of underwater cultural heritage, in the course of and upon termination of fieldwork. The programme shall include public information, reasonable provision for site stabilization, monitoring, and protection against interference.
Rule 26. The documentation programme shall set out thorough documentation including a progress report of activities directed at underwater cultural heritage, in accordance with current professional standards of archaeological documentation.
Rule 27. Documentation shall include, at a minimum, a comprehensive record of the site, including the provenance of underwater cultural heritage moved or removed in the course of the activities directed at underwater cultural heritage, field notes, plans, drawings, sections, and photographs or recording in other media.
Rule 28. A safety policy shall be prepared that is adequate to ensure the safety and health of the project team and third parties and that is in conformity with any applicable statutory and professional requirements.
Rule 29. An environmental policy shall be prepared that is adequate to ensure that the seabed and marine life are not unduly disturbed.
Rule 30. Interim and final reports shall be made available according to the timetable set out in the project design, and deposited in relevant public records.
Rule 31. Reports shall include:
(a) an account of the objectives;
(b) an account of the methods and techniques employed;
(c) an account of the results achieved;
(d) basic graphic and photographic documentation on all phases of the activity;
(e) recommendations concerning conservation and curation of the site and of any underwater cultural heritage removed; and
(f) recommendations for future activities.
XIII. Curation of project archives
Rule 32. Arrangements for curation of the project archives shall be agreed to before any activity commences, and shall be set out in the project design.
Rule 33. The project archives, including any underwater cultural heritage removedand a copy of all supporting documentation shall, as far as possible, be kept togetherand intact as a collection in a manner that is available for professional and public access as well as for the curation of the archives. This should be done as rapidly as possible and in any case not later than ten years from the completion of the project, in so far as may be compatible with conservation of the underwater cultural heritage.
Rule 34. The project archives shall be managed according to international professional standards, and subject to the authorization of the competent authorities.
Rule 35. Projects shall provide for public education and popular presentation of the project results where appropriate.
Rule 36. A final synthesis of a project shall be:
(a) made public as soon as possible, having regard to the complexity of the project and the confidential or sensitive nature of the information; and
(b) deposited in relevant public records.
Done in Paris this 6th day of November 2001 in two authentic copies bearing the signature of the President of the thirty-first session of the General Conference and of the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which shall be deposited in the archives of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and certified true copies of which shall be delivered to all the States and territories referred to in Article 26 as well as to the United Nations.