Commercial exploitation, commercial archaeological interventions and international cooperation

Katerina Dellaporta, 2nd Ephorate of Antiquities, Greece (Chair)

Le cas du Titanic découvert en 1985 par Robert Ballard, traité depuis par nombreux articles, a permis de mettre en évidence les problèmes découlant des lacunes juridiques internationales en matière de protection du patrimoine culturel subaquatique.
La Convention sur la protection du Patrimoine Culturel Subaquatique est entrée en vigueur en 2009 ; elle vient s’inscrire parmi les autres conventions internationales importantes en matière de biens culturels que sont : La Convention de la Haye de 1954, de Paris de 1970, et la Convention d’Unidroit de 1995, complémentaire à la Convention précédente de 1970.

La Convention de 2001 est complémentaire aux Conventions susmentionnées parce qu’elle est d’une importance majeure en matière de protection des biens culturels subaquatiques. Elle contribue à changer les comportements en matière de protection, de gestion appropriée, d’application des règles et de développement durable vis à vis du patrimoine culturel subaquatique. L’absence de protection juridique engendre l’exploitation commerciale et l’appropriation des trésors et autres objets archéologiques subaquatiques par les chasseurs des trésors, parfois organisés en véritables sociétés privées, et qui sont toujours nombreux et actifs pour piller les épaves.

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The extent and the prevention of pillaging on submerged archaeological sites – the French experience

Michel L'Hour, Departement des rechercher archéologiques subaquatiques et sous-marines (DRASSM), France

 

La mer, chacun aujourd’hui en convient, est le plus grand musée du monde. Malheureusement, c’est aussi le seul musée qui ne dispose pas de système de sécurité renforcé ni d’un gardiennage adapté à son immensité. Le résultat est que sur tous les océans, sous toutes les mers du globe, une lutte féroce oppose les partisans d’une protection renforcée de cet héritage englouti à ceux qui persistent à ne voir dans ce dernier qu’une proie commerciale susceptible d’appartenir au premier qui s’en saisira. Pays de naissance de l’archéologie sous-marine avec la fouille dans les années 1950 des épaves du grand Congloué, la France fut aussi le premier pays au monde à se doter en 1966 d’un service officiel chargé d’assurer la protection, l’étude et la valorisation du patrimoine immergé de ses eaux territoriales, lesquelles couvrent près de 11 millions de km² de l’Atlantique au Pacifique et de l’océan Indien à la Méditerranée. Disposant d’un arsenal juridique très ancien et très structuré, dotés de moyens logistique relativement importants, inscrits au cœur d’un réseau de relations institutionnelles très dense les archéologues sous-marins français n’ont pu empêcher pourtant que de très nombreux sites archéologiques sous-marins des eaux françaises soient pillés. Il a donc fallu réagir, mettre en place des réseaux d’information et développer des enquêtes dont les résultats aujourd’hui sont très loin d’être négligeables. Des coups très durs ont ainsi été portés ces dernières années aux trafiquants, non seulement en France mais aussi dans d’autres pays avec lesquels la France entretient des relations suivies et qu’elle épaule dans ce combat dont l’issue est la protection du patrimoine de l’humanité. Cette communication sera l’occasion d’évoquer les modes opératoires mis en place, et d’en montrer quelques résultats. Elle vise à démontrer que le pillage et la destruction de notre patrimoine immergé n’est pas inéluctable. Le chemin est encore long certes mais le désespoir n’est plus de rigueur. Le bon droit finira par l’emporter !

The Centenary of the Titanic and the international and US laws giving legal protection

Ole Varmer, NOAA, USA & Mariano Aznar, Chair of Public International Law at the University Jaume I of Castellón, Spain 

(Text | Presentation)

April 15, 2012 will mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of RMS Titanic. This presentation will discuss some of the legal implications of this anniversary as Titanic will qualify for the provisions of the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage, which provides protection for shipwrecks that have been submerged for at least 100 years. What will this mean for Parties to the UNESCO 2001 Convention? What does it mean for non-parties, particularly for those that negotiated the International Agreement on Titanic, including the United Kingdom, France, Canada and the United States? Does the August 15, 2011 Court Order, which prevented the sale of the Titanic Collection in compliance with historic preservation standards, which included keeping the collection together for the public benefit, mean that salvage is not “commercial exploitation” under the UNESCO 2001 Convention?

Professional archaeological services in the UK: an archaeological contractor’s perspective

 

Antony Firth, Wessex Archaeology UK

(Presentation)

The UK has been a place for a wide range of individuals and organisations to conduct archaeological investigations. Archaeology has always been an ‘open’ practice. Except in the case of specific monuments that have statutory protection, it has not been necessary for people to have a specific archaeological authorisation or license to be able to carry out investigations.

Against this backdrop of relatively ‘open’ provision of archaeological services, the UK Government introduced two far-reaching policies in the 1980s. First, central government stopped paying for ‘rescue’ archaeology prompted by development, requiring instead that developers fund the archaeological work produced from their schemes on the basis of the ‘polluter pays’ principle. Second – in common with many other public services – archaeological services were split between regulators and providers: regulators stayed within the public sector, but providers were expected to arise from the private sector. This was accompanied by a third 1980s idea, the introduction of compulsory competitive tendering for public contracts. In combination, this resulted in ‘contract archaeology’ whereby archaeological investigations are carried out on the basis of fixed-term contracts for specific projects. Contracts often have to be won by competitive tender. This applied to service contracts offered by Government, and to planning-related contracts offered by developers.

Remembering the ‘open’ character of archaeological practice, archaeological service providers in the UK are actually drawn from the public sector, the private sector and the third sector (private not-for-profit organisations). Hence archaeological contractors are not necessarily private companies. However, no organisation can survive in contract archaeology unless it can win sufficient projects while ensuring that its contracts earn more income than they cost in expenditure to complete. Consequently, all archaeological contractors are ‘commercial’ whether they are public, private or third sector. Balance between archaeological ethics and standards on the one hand, and commercialisation on the other, is achieved through a variety of mechanisms, including the contracts themselves, the planning/development process, and professionalism.

Marine archaeology in the UK has been exposed to the same pressures since the 1980s, and shares the same balancing mechanisms. In consequence, UK marine archaeology falls within the sphere of Rule 2(a) of the Annex, conforming to the UNESCO 2001 Convention while being commercial in character. In this presentation, I will outline how the key balancing mechanisms operate, highlighting some of the pitfalls and ‘market failures’ of the UK approach, but also some of the advantages and successes.

 

The Impact and extent of looting and the commercial interventions - The Portuguese experience and the planned Portuguese / Spanish collaboration on the Nuestra Señora del Rosario


Alexandre Monteiro
, Instituto de Arqueologia e Paleociencias of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal & Verónica Walker Vadillo, Oxford's School of Archaeology, Spain/UK
 

(Presentation)

In May 2007, the largest and most valuable shipwreck treasure in history - a seventeen-ton haul of 500 thousand gold and silver coins, copper and tin ingots, and other commercially valuable objects - was raised by the US Company Odyssey Marine Exploration from the bottom of the sea of the Portuguese contiguous zone. The cargo was later discovered that it was recovered from the wreck site of the Spanish frigate Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, sunk by the British in 1804.

The Black Swan case, as it became known in the media, is a good example of how a thin slice of humankind’s maritime history, no larger than 300 years, is targeted by commercial companies - with Iberian ships being the main targets for plunder and destruction. The decade-old archaeological adage that states: “we now know more about Roman shipbuilding than we do about the ships of discoveries” still rings true. The lack of an appropriate and coordinated management plan of the Iberian underwater cultural heritage in Portugal and Spain’s coastlines hinder the nautical efforts for archaeological research, conservation and dissemination of knowledge. The authors will bring insight into the formulation of an Iberian co-directed project that aims, along with other scientific objectives, for the first archaeologically controlled survey of a treasure ship – in this case, a Spanish nao lost in Portuguese waters.

 

Outsourcing archaeological services to commercial professional services - the Dutch experience and a governmental perspective on the application of the Valletta treaty

Martijn Manders, Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency, Netherlands

(Presentation)

The Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage of Europe, usually referred to as the Valletta Treaty or Malta Convention, was signed in 1992 but it was not until 2007 that it was implemented into the Dutch Monuments law. In the meantime, works were already executed according to the Malta Convention and some standards were set. Prior to the legal implementation, the commercial market was developed. This year the implementation of the Treaty of Valletta Convention in the Netherlands is being evaluated.

This presentation will discuss some of the issues that surfaced from this evaluation and have implications on the management of the underwater cultural heritage.

 

National authorities and the prevention of looting – the Spanish experience

Xavier Nieto, Musée national d'archéologie subaquatique ARQUA, Espagne 

(Presentation)

Xavier Nieto, director of the National Museum of Underwater Cultural Heritage ARQUA, revises the implementation of the 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage carried out by the Spanish national and regional authorities as well as the focus of Spanish underwater archaeology for the future.

The Spanish success in the fight against treasure hunting and commercial exploitation of the underwater cultural heritage -with the most recent case of the Spanish frigate, The Mercedes, and the restitution of its stolen cargo as an example- shows the commitment of the Spanish authorities to the principles of the international community expressed in the text of the 2001 Convention.