Underwater Archaeology Museum Fuerte de San José El Alto, Campeche, Mexico


The National Institute of Anthropology and History is in charge of developing projects and activities related to the protection, conservation, research and dissemination of the Underwater Cultural Heritage in marine and continental waters of the Yucatan Peninsula: Gulf of Mexico, Mexican Caribbean, cenotes (sinkholes), flooded caves, rivers, lakes, lagoons, springs, and land claimed by the sea.

More than 900 elements have been recovered from work in these aquatic spaces, including: skeletons of humans and animals who inhabited the Yucatan Peninsula during the Late Pleistocene period; for example, findings of pre-Hispanic vestiges of the Mayan culture in cenotes and caves; a significant collection of pieces coming from shipwrecks related to the Colonial period, and wrecks from the industrial era focused on the technology of steam navigation.

This unique collection, product of projects undertaken by INAH over 37 years, will be exhibited, for the first time, at the Underwater Archaeological Museum,  inaugurated end of 2017. This museum has two locations: the first one in San Jose el Alto, in an eighteenth century redoubt in the port of San Francisco de Campeche, a city declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 1999. The second location is in the area of Playa Bonita, in the city of Lerma, State of Campeche. This space focuses on strengthening the visibility of Underwater Cultural Heritage through interactive activities, where visitors experience being in a replica of a maritime accident, diving, snorkeling, and glass bottom boats, among other instruments.


Replica of an 18th century maritime accident, part of the hull and cargo as well as artillery and an anchor. ©INAH


Partial results related to the scientific research will be displayed in text throughout the museum, which will generate public access to information and knowledge.

Likewise, the conservation of the Underwater Cultural Heritage will be highlighted throughout the exhibition, so visitors can learn more about the authorization process of INAH’s Archaeological Council for archeologists to obtain a permit to explore, record, recover and conserve submerged cultural artifacts. Furthermore, importance of in situ preservation of underwater cultural heritage will be stressed, and the exhibitions will explain why it is important not to touch or remove the artifacts in an aquatic body.  Most essentially, visitors will be able to discover different aspects related to the underwater cultural patrimony: research, conservation, dissemination, site management, and protection


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