Andalusia's Underwater Archaeological Heritage, Spain

Map of Andalusia with signage of the Archaeological Areas and Areas of Archaeological Easement. ©IAPH


Andalusia, a region in the southern-most part of the Iberian Peninsula, has one of the longest coastlines in Spain – 1100 km – including Atlantic and the Mediterranean shores and inland bodies of water.

Along with its strategic geographical situation, Spain’s hegemonic role in lengthy periods in modern history and the nature of its colonial trade with the Americas generated intense maritime traffic in ports such as Cádiz and Seville. Therefore, the coastline of Andalusia beared witness to numerous shipwrecks, meaning that there is now a significant amount of underwater heritage, and, consequently, reason to protect and preserve it. At present, there are 120 sites registered in the Management and Information System of Cultural Assets of Andalusia (MOSAICO).

Additionally, there is potential for more undiscovered heritage, as documentary sources have provided data concerning 900 historical shipwrecks in the waters of Andalusia, 638 of which are in the Gulf of Cádiz.  These undiscovered sites show the relevant need for heritage documentation and protection in the area.


Vista aerea del pecio Matagrana.©IAPH

Reconstrucción en 3D del fondo de la Bahía de Cádiz, 1870. ©IAPH

Obús de bronce en aguas de Huelva. ©IAPH


In response to concern that the implementation of these registrations could prohibit diving to certain sites, the regional government of Andalusia decided not to implement any restrictions, to encourage site visit by both diving clubs and private individuals.

These measures of inscription and declaration of underwater archaeological sites, besides being aimed at guaranteeing the protection and in situ conservation of the underwater archaeological heritage of Andalusia, are previous and necessary measures to promote responsible and non-intrusive access of the public to this heritage.

Amphoras in Punta del Nao (Cádiz) ©IAPH

During recent years the underwater heritage has been accessible to the public in the following measures:

- Publishing news and articles in media and press.

- Conducting and participating in training courses and seminars.

- Developing guided visits to the Centre of Underwater Archaeology.


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