International cooperation (Rule 8)

© Department of Underwater Archaeology of Croatia
An Apoxyomenos statue in situ, Croatia. Roman period life-sized bronze statues are very rare, some 20 have been recovered, and there are only a few original works. Copies are much more frequently done in stone, yet another specificity of the bronze Croatian Apoxyomenos. The statue is likely a copy dating from the 4th century BC. No traces of a shipwreck from which it may originate have been found, although it is presumed that it does come from a shipwreck that occurred between the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD. The statue depicts an athlete scraping himself clean of oil, a conventional subject of Ancient Greek votive sculpture called Apoxymenos. The Apoxyomenos statue was found by chance in 1997 in the waters off the islet of Vela Orjula near the island of Veli Lošinj. The task of bringing it to the surface was taken up by the staff of the Department for Archaeological Heritage of the Ministry of Culture’s Directorate for Cultural Heritage Protection, assisted by divers from the Special Police and in collaboration with GRASP (Groupe de Recherche Archeologique Sous-Marin Post -Medievale) and OML (Oxford Maritime Ltd.). The extraction of the statue from a depth of almost 45 m was further complicated when damage was discovered on the statute: the head was practically separated from the body, and a number of fractures were discovered under the right knee and on the right shoulder, but the statue was successfully extracted without new damage. The statue has been preserved intact, missing only the small finger of its left hand. The entire statue was covered with a thick layer of incrustation, and was half filled with sand and sea sediment. Conservation and restoration work was carried out at the Croatian Conservation Institute in Zagreb. The first phase involved desalination, followed by the mechanical removal of the incrustation, a 3-year undertaking, and the consolidation of the fractures and breaks. A support construction was built into the statue to allow it to stand upright. The Croatian Apoxyomenos is certainly among the most spectacular archaeological finds extracted from the Adriatic Sea. The best-known Apoxyomenos was that made by Lysippos in the late 4th century BC. The manufacture of statues of athletes is most often associated with victory at the Olympic games, and they were a votive gift to a god, and an expression of the pride and glory the winner brought to his city. Besides as a statue, Apoxyomenos has also been depicted on grave stele, reliefs, gemmas and statuettes. The Croatian Apoxyomenos is very similar to the one kept in Vienna, which was found in 1896 and believed to have been an original.



As a general principle, international cooperation should be promoted. Underwater cultural heritage is an international section of heritage if ever there was one. Nevertheless, protection and management, including the management of activities directed at this heritage is in the hands of individual States, each having its competent authority to deal with the matter. However, States that ratify the 2001 Convention do so on the understanding that they act responsibly not only on behalf of themselves, but on behalf of all other States Parties. That is actually the condition based on which they can act as a coordinating State in maritime zones such as the Exclusive Economic Zone, the Continental Shelf or the Area (Article 10 & 12 of the Convention).

Even apart from the understanding that each State contributes to a wider goal, sharing through international cooperation is the way forward. The significance of heritage is not limited to one group or one specific country, even though that specific group or country may have a great interest or stake. Verifiable links exist everywhere, as heritage is the result of the complicated and thoroughly intertwined history of humankind.

Cooperation is beneficial, especially in research and in sharing expertise. Of all the levels of international cooperation that exist, it is therefore in particular the exchange of archaeologists and other relevant professionals that is targeted by Rule 8.

A means of improving international cooperation is the participation in the Meeting of States Parties of the 2001 Convention, in its Scientific Advisory Body and in UNESCO regional meetings and training programmes. Another is the engagement of professionals in groups like ICOMOS and its international scientific Committee, ICOMOS – ICUCH, or other organizations that further concern for underwater cultural heritage and help setting standards, like the Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology - Society for Historical Archaeology (ACUA-SHA), the Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology (AIMA), the German Society for the Promotion of Underwater Archaeology (DEGUWA), the Joint Nautical Archaeology Policy Committee (JNAPC) in England, or the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS), depending on the region.


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Cooperation in research


In the domain of underwater archaeology, where the number of well-qualified professionals is still limited and many sites need to be treated and researched in an international comparison, it is advisable to draw up regional or multi-national research agendas, setting the priorities for joint-research projects. Such research agendas could for instance address the comparison of prehistoric settlement and use of the submerged continental shelves of different regions. They could address the evidence of early seafaring that provided for the population of the Earth. They could target the shipping that provided contacts between different regions, across one or different seas in a specific period of Antiquity. Or, they could focus on the development of a specific class of ships. Whether these be Pacific multihulls, whaling vessels, Maccassan praus, Arabian dhows, Chinese junks, VOC ships, Spanish galleons, American teaclippers, troopships, slaveships, or transports for pilgrims, conscript labour and immigration, one-man submarines, dreadnoughts or any other class of vessel. Drawing up such an inclusive research agenda will need to include collaboration with researchers from the States of departure, of passage, of destination and from those on whose coasts they came to grief. These research projects would be a good basis for further research and international cooperation.


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Partners and fields of cooperation


The Convention builds upon international cooperation.

It stimulates cooperation at all levels between:

  • States Parties,
  • their competent authorities,
  • their experts,
  • professionals,
  • divers and other interested parties, and
  • international researchers.

Particular fields of cooperation are:

  • The Convention itself and its Operational Guidelines,
  • The management of sites with multiple verifiable links,
  • The management of sites in international waters,
  • Exchange of expertise,
  • Training,
  • Setting up cooperative research agendas and projects.

Professional and non-governmental organizations inform cooperation at the State level and provide a platform for cooperation at other levels. They include:

  • ICOMOS – ICUCH with its global membership and remit to advise on policy matters worldwide;
  • ACUA-SHA with its firm basis in historical archaeology of the New World and remit to advise on policy matters worldwide; 
  • Universities cooperating in international training programs;
  • NAS with its remit to inform and raise awareness in the diving community;
  • AIMA which concentrates on the Australasian region;
  • Groups organizing relevant international archaeological conferences such as IKUWA and ISBSA;
  • Many other regional and topical organizations.
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