Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage

© Archivo ARQUA
Protection cage for the phoenician shipwreck from the 7th century BC Mazarrón II, Spain.

Underwater cultural heritage is becoming increasingly accessible since Jacques Cousteau and Emile Gagnan invented in 1942-43 the aqualung, which allowed the reach of greater depths not only by scientists and archaeologist, but also by treasure hunters and salvage explorers.

Since then, looting of the underwater archaeological sites and destruction of their contexts have increased rapdily and threaten to deprive humanity of this heritage. The pillaging and dispersion of archaeological heritage is not longer restricted to land-based sites with treasure hunting now taking place also under water. Nevertheless, while many States have heightened the preservation of their heritage on land, most of their underwater cultural heritage remains unprotected.

The UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage intends to provide the State Parties with a mechanism to protect their submerged heritage.

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