Preventive conservation and development-led-archaeology between science and pragmatism

Opportunities arising for the research and protection of underwater cultural heritage from development projects

James Delgado

Discoveries of the underwater cultural heritage often occur as the result of near-shore and offshore development projects, and in a number of cases, from onshore development projects on what was once submerged land. These include the placement of underwater cables and pipelines, harbour development projects, dredging, and coastal construction. The types of resources encountered range from prehistoric sites, submerged settlements, maritime infrastructure from the past such as weirs, docks, shipyards, shore-side ship graveyards to shipwrecks. While there is a potential threat to resources as a result of development, strategies for maximising benefit include legal requirements for predevelopment surveys, archaeological mitigation, and in exceptional circumstances extensive projects that appropriately respond through detailed programmes of excavation, conservation, study and public presentation. This session examines the pragmatic role of development-led archaeology, the role of archaeologists and government, and mitigative strategies.

The role of archaeologists in understanding and preventing the impacts of marine industries on the prehistoric environment

Martin Bates, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, UK



A wide range of impacts are caused by marine industries on the seabed and in some instances these impacts may affect archaeological remains associated with the seabed or buried in sediments beneath the seabed. Where we understand something of the nature of the submerged landscapes (such as the southern North Sea) these impacts can be mitigated through a range of approaches. In other areas deemed to be 'unknown' or of low archaeological potential it is very difficult to develop an approach to the seabed prehistory because of a set of preconceptions about the nature of the seabed.
In order to help educate and inform maritime industries about the nature of the archaeological problems of submerged prehistory it is important that as an industry we are clear about what our aims and objectives are when we consider developing projects in the marine sector. Too often we only have vague notions of what we mean when we discuss the prehistoric record, and there is little consideration for examples, that approaches to late Palaeolithic/Holocene pre-histories require different strategies to those dealing with the lower and middle Palaeolithic.

Innovative, non-destructive techniques and methodologies for the survey and the exploration of submerged cultural remains on the shallow and deep seafloor

Dimitris Sakellariou, Hellenic Centre of Marine Research, Greece


Remote sensing techniques have found wide application in underwater archaeological surveys, particularly in deep waters and self areas. With their use large areas of the seafloor can be surveyed in detail at almost any depth and in very short time. Spectacular discoveries of ancient shipwrecks in deep waters have been possible with the use of advanced marine geophysical techniques and sophisticated underwater vehicles (HOVs, ROVs, AUVs) operating from big oceanographic vessels.
Opposite to deep water research, very few archaeological survey in the shallow coastal zone have incorporated remote sensing techniques for the mapping or detection of archaeological remains. A main reason is that marine survey techniques are predominantly designed for use in deep waters and their application in shallow water surveys is logistically complicated: requirements for sufficient power supply and relatively large space on the survey vessel for the installation of the various devises make their use inconsistent to the concept of low-budget, shallow-water, archaeological or prehistoric landscape surveys from small vessels.
The development of user-friendly, purpose-designed techniques for the high resolution survey, early detection and mapping of archaeological sites and prehistoric landscapes in shallow waters is a major challenge for the broad marine geo-archaeological and marine technology community.

The development of measures to mitigate impact on the underwater cultural heritage: Preventive conservation

Nathalie Huet
, Department of Underwater and Undersea Archaeological Research (DRASSM), France



Le développement durable est une notion omniprésente dans notre quotidien. L'archéologie sous-marine, et en particulier les actes de conservation, peuvent pleinement être appréhendées selon ce concept d'intérêt public. Ainsi, l'approche environnementale est prise en compte au travers différentes actions : impact des opérations archéologiques sur la biodiversité (Natura 2000), risques liées aux épaves polluantes, limitation des déplacements des artefacts découverts... La notion de pérennité pour les générations futures est également au cœur des missions de l'archéologie sous-marine : conservation in-situ totale ou partielle des sites, gestion des collections archéologiques (inventaire, conservation préventive, étude et restauration), administration des archives, transmission des savoirs par la formation... L'aspect social est incontestable puisqu'au delà de la sensibilisation des publics à leur environnement et leur histoire, le fonctionnement de l'archéologie sous-marine se base sur un système de réseaux, que ce soit au niveau professionnel, les connaissances historiques et techniques étant partagées internationalement, comme au niveau des passionnées (plongeurs amateurs, pêcheurs...) qui sont les premiers pourvoyeurs d'informations sur la détection de biens culturels maritimes. Toutes ces actions génèrent une activité économique non négligeable dans les domaines du loisir sportif et du tourisme.

The development of measures to mitigate impact on the underwater cultural heritage

Mark Dunkley
, English Heritage




Research frameworks may be seen as vital research tools for guiding, facilitating and integrating research by individuals and groups that can collectively contribute to a deeper understanding of marine and coastal archaeology. The fundamental relationship of archaeological activity to its research base is strongly endorsed by English Heritage; the development of frameworks is advised to give researchers a yardstick against which to formulate ideas, collate their data, and measure results.
The Maritime, Marine and Coastal Historic Environment Research Framework of England, coordinated by the University of Southampton, has developed a Resource Assessment and Research Agenda through thematic working groups. This paper will show how gaps in knowledge identified through the Research Agenda are driving Research Strategies that will be delivered through English Heritage’s National Heritage Protection Plan (NHPP). Implemented from April 2011, the NHPP is a statement that sets out priorities to deliver heritage protection over the next four years by making the best use of resources so that England's vulnerable historic environment is safeguarded in the most cost-effective way at a time of massive social, environmental, economic and technological change.

Impact mitigation in the managment of submerged archaeological sites

Martin Segschneider, Archaeological State Office Schleswig-Holstein, Germany



Submerged archaeological sites are highly vulnerable to e.g. looting, trawling, gravel extraction, various building activities and erosion. But on the other hand, it is possible to oppose and mitigate these impacts by setting up proper management standards. In many cases, it is even possible to turn threats into possibilities. An overview of strategies, for example in the planning phase of building projects, and the potential of pro-active site management and site-monitoring will be presented, which aim not only to minimize the destruction of the submerged sites, but also to protect and understand them. In doing so, impact mitigation in the management of submerged archaeological sites in many cases goes well with cooperating e.g. with large development projects. Therefore, it allows economic progress while also providing better knowledge and understanding of the values of the underwater cultural heritage.