UNESCO Scientific and Technical Advisory Body assists Madagascar

H. Exc. Hery Rajaonarimampianina. H. Exc. Brigitte Rasamoelina, General Dieudonné and UNESCO STAB mission © Presidency of Madagascar

Paris, 14 juillet 2015 - A recent mission of the UNESCO Scientific and Technical Advisory Body (STAB) to Madagascar verified the status of the historic wrecks near Sainte Marie Island and evaluated an excavation, which had resulted in the announcement of the discovery of a possible silver ingot allegedly found on the Adventure Galley, a shipwreck associated with the pirate William Kidd.

The mission showed that several historic wrecks lie indeed in the bays of Sainte-Marie Island. However, what had been identified as the Adventure Galley of the pirate Captain Kidd has been found by the experts of the STAB to be a broken part of the Sainte-Marie port constructions. No ship remains have been found. Also the metal ingot, recovered apparently from the above site, is not a ‘silver treasure’, but is constituted of 95 % lead. It does not contain silver and has been identified as a lead-ballast piece.

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In fact the real news is not that there is no silver treasure” says Michel L’Hour, Chief of the UNESCO STAB mission, “but that someone assists the government and checks on its behalf. The creation of a Scientific Advisory Body by States, which have agreed on the best standards in underwater archaeology by adopting the UNESCO 2001 Convention, that is really new." The Advisory Body joins the most reliable experts in the domain and assists States that have ratified the Convention on their request.

Other results of the mission show that what has been identified as the remains of a Dutch pirate ship presumably the Fiery Dragon, are in fact the remains of a large Asian ship, most likely build in India, and looted by pirates and then abandoned in the bay. Artefacts recovered from that Asian wreck in 2010, in particular several gold coins, that would facilitate the identification of the site, are however absent from the site inventories and the museum. Moreover the recovery, inventory, storage and conservation of the finds have been made in an unscientific manner, leading to damage to the scientific record of the sites and making it more difficult to understand their historic background.

For any further research the STAB recommends to follow closely the regulations of the Annex of the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage and to only permit interventions by a competent team led by a qualified underwater archaeologist.

Photo Gallery

Pillaging is a serious threat to underwater cultural heritage. The image shows a wreck that was recently pillaged in Madagascar © DRASSM

Small Island of Sainte Marie

Ingot found at Sainte-Marie Island © F. Osada/ UNESCO

On the left, a French coin found on site SM1, on the right a Portuguese coin © John de Bry

Porcelains found on SM 2 © Frédéric Osada/UNESCO

Gold coin SMS 003 found on the Sainte-Marie 2 wreck by the Clifford team © John de Bry

Taking probes on site Sainte Marie 2 © F. Osada/ UNESCO

Site Sainte-Marie 1 © Frederic Osada/UNESCO

Map of Sainte Marie Island

Place of storage of the collections of Sainte-Marie Island © Frederic Osada, UNESCO

Porcelain found on SM 2 © Frédéric Osada/UNESCO

Porcelain found on SM 2 © Frédéric Osada/UNESCO

Gold coin SMS 003 found on the Sainte-Marie 2 wreck by the Clifford team © John de Bry

STAB Team coming out of water on Sainte Marie Island © F. Osada/ UNESCO

Taking probes on site Sainte-Marie 2. The wood proves to be teak. A tropical species, an Asian wreck © Frederic Osada/UNESCO

Ingot found at Sainte-Marie Island and the STAB team taking probes © F. Osada/ UNESCO

Coins recovered off Ilot Madame, Sainte-Marie, in 2010 © John de Bry

Porcelain found on SM 2 © Frédéric Osada/UNESCO

Gold coin SMS 008 found on the Sainte-Marie 2 wreck by the Clifford team © John de Bry

Ingot found at Sainte-Marie Island and the STAB team taking probes © F. Osada/ UNESCO

Taking probes on site Sainte-Marie 2 © Frederic Osada/UNESCO

Taking probes on site Sainte-Marie 2 © Frederic Osada/UNESCO

Ingot found at Sainte-Marie Island © F. Osada/ UNESCO

Copper ingots and cannons looted on the site of the Sao Idefonso © DRASSM

Porcelain found on SM 2 © Frédéric Osada/UNESCO

Gold coin SMS 008 found on the Sainte-Marie 2 wreck by the Clifford team © John de Bry

STAB Team © F. Osada/ UNESCO

Taking probes on site Sainte-Marie 2 © Frederic Osada/UNESCO


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