Construction works

The compatibility of heritage protection and construction works

Thijs Maarleveld, President of ICUCH, Professor at the University of Southern Denmark (Chair)


Major infrastructure projects along Europe's waterfronts, across straights or through the middle of the ocean have major impact on archaeological heritage. Harbours, bridges, pipelines and cables have to be brought out in order to develop infrastructure all around Europe´s continental shelf as basis for economic growth and well being of society.

During preparations for the investment, the main challenge for Heritage Managers is to detect, valorise and protect the heritage in the best possible way. From environmental impact assessment to in situ preservation or excavation: Managers of Europe´s uniquely preserved submerged past are under permanent pressure. This session presents some good practice examples on how unavoidable construction works and heritage protection go hand in hand.

The Maasvlakte 2 Expedition Project (Port of Rotterdam) - a show-case of interdisciplinary research of underwater cultural heritage in the North Sea

Andrea Otte, Dutch Cultural heritage Agency, Netherlands



The Port of Rotterdam is presently expanding the Rotterdam harbour to the west into the North Sea. About 240 million m³ sand is dredged from the North Sea floor several kilometers offshore to build the harbour. It was recognized in an early stage that a project of this kind and size might have a substantial impact on the cultural heritage values present. Historic shipwrecks and prehistoric landscapes would be destroyed in the process of dredging and digging. This awareness led to intensive contact between the Rotterdam Port Authority and the Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency about the archaeological work that had to be done and the way this could be conducted without delays to the project. A true challenge has been the development of a research method for the prehistoric drowned landscape in the sand extraction area that is deeply buried under the harbour itself. Hence, a consortium of research institutions, museums and universities has been invited to formulate a research programme. This research programme serves as a test-case to develop new methods and techniques which can be applied in a more systematic way to offshore research in the future.

Coastal developments and waterfront constructions: city, dyke, dam and marina builiding

Alexandre Monteiro, Instituto de Arqueologia e Paleociencias of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal


Angra bay - the Azorean harbour that served Angra city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned since the Age of Discoveries – is no larger than 10 soccer fields. In spite of having such a humble area, between 1522 and 1998 at least 96 shipwrecks have occurred there - the majority of them Portuguese and Spanish ships coming back from the India or the New World.
Plundered by treasure hunters in 1972, threatened by commercial salvage activities between 1993 and 1996, mutilated by the construction of a marina in 1998, Angra bay was turned into a classified underwater archaeological preserve in 2005. In spite of that, the bay is now designated to be the location of a Transatlantic Cruising Ship Pier. This move will impact the scores of historical wrecks still to be discovered under its sandy bottom way beyond any mitigation measures that might be taken.
The case of Angra bay, as well as several others that will be quoted, is a fine example of how the fundamental protection of underwater cultural heritage is not carved in stone and how nautical archaeologists must have their voices heard in the discussion on development, where and at what cost.

The Femarnbelt Fixed Link - the new Baltic tunnel

Jørgen Dencker, Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark


In connection to a huge construction work of an 18 kilometer long tunnel between Germany and Denmark crossing Femarnbelt the Danish Viking Ship Museum, Roskilde and the German Archaeological State Office Schleswig–Holstein have been closely cooperating on the underwater cultural heritage.
The two institutions were involved in this construction work at a very early stage in the process because the construction company, Femern A/S, wanted all cultural heritage aspects mapped and analyzed in good time before the start of the building process.

Even if the two countries involved had different marine archaeological traditions and experience, Femern A/S wanted the project carried out as a coast-to-coast project with the highest marine archaeological standards.
Since 2008 an ambitious marine archaeological work has been carried out to detect any trace of cultural heritage which could be affected of the construction work: 1) archival studies; 2) a complete overview of the building area by means of Multi beam echo sounder, Side scan sonar, Magnetometer and Sub bottom profiler; 3) checking the anomalies on deeper water with ROV and if something was of a certain cultural value checking by divers; 4) checking the anomalies on shallow water by divers.

Until now we have found submerged landscapes including stumps and trunks on different water depths, sediments from a former fresh water lake, two wrecks from 1930s and two wrecks from 17th Century.