Development and assessment (Rule 10)

According to Rule 10 the project design shall include:

  • an evaluation of previous or preliminary studies;
  • the project statement and objectives;
  • the methodology to be used and the techniques to be employed;
  • the anticipated funding;
  • an expected timetable for completion of the project;
  • the composition of the team and the qualifications, responsibilities and experience of each team member;
  • plans for post-fieldwork analysis and other activities;
  • a conservation programme for artefacts and the site, in close cooperation with the competent authorities;
  • a site management and maintenance policy for the whole duration of the project;
  • a documentation programme;
  • a safety policy;
  • an environmental policy;
  • arrangements for collaboration with museums and other institutions, in particular scientific institutions;
  • report preparation;
  • deposition of archives, including underwater cultural heritage that is removed; and
  • a programme for publication.


Scheme of the progress of a project



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The project design


The list of issues to be addressed in a project design, according to Rule 10, is relatively comprehensive. They should all be included and are equally important for larger and for smaller projects. There is, for instance, no justification for work that is unsafe or environmentally unfriendly, or for not writing a report just because an activity is of a lesser scale. All listed items are more fully explained in the further Rules of the Annex.

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Project statement and objectives

A ‘project statement’ is a brief sentence or paragraph that enables the reader to quickly understand the overall nature and scope of the project. It also defines the logic of the intervention. This could be as simple as, “This project is an archaeological excavation of [the site] to uncover new information about the history of [a given country, a given culture, a given aspect of past society]”.

The ‘objectives’ describe the purpose of the project or the major research questions that it will address. These could include questions about technical developments, the history of a civilisation, or a historical event. The objective of a project can also be to facilitate site access, to test a method or to train a team, or to set an example that fits into an overall management strategy. Whether such objectives are commensurate with the importance and fragility of the site in question is for the competent authority to decide. It is important that the objectives and the project statement are formulated in a realistic and attainable fashion.

 See Rule 16

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A timetable for each individual section of the project and the completion of the entire project ensures that there is a commitment to deliver results within a reasonable period. Depending on the scale of the project, this may range from 6 months to two years for limited projects, and a lengthier period for large ones. The timetable should establish the duration of field work, the anticipated duration of conservation work, the delivery of any interim reports and the completion date of the final project report. It should moreover set clear deadlines for the conclusion of project sections and the project as a whole, taking account of risks that can cause delays. Completion dates should be agreed upon by the competent authority as part of the project approval process.

See Rule 20 -21

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Composition of the team

Project teams need to be matched with the type of project being conducted. They should be composed with a view to the qualifications, responsibilities and experience of each team member and cover all aspects of the project that in return require very diverse profiles. It is appropriate for the competent authority to require proponents to provide details of the qualifications of the archaeological director and other key personnel before project approval is given.

See Rules 22 - 23

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Post-fieldwork analysis and other activities

At the completion of fieldwork, an analysis and interpretation of results is undertaken and report writing begins. Further research may be necessary in light of information that has been uncovered. Each week in the field may mean at least 2-3 weeks or more analysing the results and report writing, depending on the complexity of the project. Sharing and providing access to information gained from underwater cultural heritage investigations through appropriate archives is a key principle of the 2001 Convention. Therefore, other post-fieldwork activities may include media coverage, lectures and preparation of publications for popular or academic purposes.

See Rules 30 - 31

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Conservation programme for artefacts and site

Any recovery of artefacts or other intervention on a site will have implications for site and artefact conservation. Sites and artefacts that have been under water for a long time can deteriorate quickly once they are interfered with. Any equilibrium with the environment that ensures stability will be disturbed. This is true for the site as a whole, but is particularly evident when artefacts are recovered and exposed to dry air. Conservation requires specialized expertise from qualified material conservators.

Therefore, this section of the project design must clearly identify arrangements for conservation treatment of artefacts and site stabilization. For sites with a large and complex collection of artefacts, a field conservation laboratory is advisable. Packaging and safe transportation of the artefacts have to be accounted for and planned. Storage plans should be concerned with practical accessibility of the material for researchers involved in the preparation of the report. Redundancy in the recording process should be ensured from the field work operation to the laboratory. This may involve the use of parallel data logging systems and parallel data storage systems to provide insurance against system failures and information loss. It should also be accompanied by compatibility and clear relational cohesion between all the different types of records, whether field notes, site plans, photographs, drawings, videos etc.

The competent authority has a role in ensuring that planning for the conservation process begins well before any artefact is recovered. The inclusion of a conservation programme in a project design is therefore best done in close cooperation with such competent authorities. Moreover, archaeologists should work closely with materials conservators in the planning process and development of the project design. Where possible, a materials conservator should visit a site prior to excavation and, if possible, be present to assist with the excavation. This will enable them to assess the condition of artefacts that may be recovered and guide the development of appropriate conservation facilities and procedures.

See Rule 24

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Site management and maintenance

A site management plan identifies a site’s stakeholders and authorities with a view to engaging them in the curation and guaranteeing sustainable use of the site. It regulates access and research, includes provisions for public education and information, tourism, sustainable use, and should include a vision for the future. Moreover, it identifies risks for site stability and conservation, proposing a policy framework of adequate measures. Once a site of underwater cultural heritage has been disturbed, it is vulnerable to the effects of waves, tides, currents and storm activity. Changes in the stability of a site can occur quickly and with little warning. Site management and maintenance policies are a part of risk management and should provide mechanisms to deal with such contingencies promptly and effectively during the whole duration of the project. Moreover, these policies will inform the management of the site after the termination of the project.

See Rule 25

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Documentation programme

Once a site has been disturbed, it cannot be restored to its original condition. It is therefore essential that a comprehensive site record be established and that all aspects of the project work are methodically documented as a permanent archive. This documentation needs to be stored in a stable environment and on stable and secure storage mediums. It is also important that documentation is to a standard that enables comparisons with data from other sites and other cultural heritage jurisdictions, so that it can become part of an increasingly valuable body of research.

See Rules 26 - 27

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Work in an underwater environment requires high standards of safety to ensure the well-being of all participants. Risk management should identify all possible dangers associated with a project and provide strategies that mitigate dangers. Consideration should be given to issues such as: dive training, fitness to dive, and the availability of safety equipment and medical aid, injury management plans, decompression chambers, emergency evacuation plans and communication plans. The environment of each site should also be assessed in view of depth of water, currents, and exposure to heat, cold or any other extreme weather that could affect the safety of the project team. An assessment should also be made of the potential for any toxic substances to be present in the water or in the sediment as these could result in long-term health problems. These substances are particularly common in rivers, harbours and near industrial facilities. But toxic substances can also be part of the deposit, just like unexploded ordnance or dangerous cargo.


See Rule 28


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Any activity directed at underwater cultural heritage intrudes in an alien environment. Excavation entails the disturbance of sediments and of site content. As with a dredging programme this may affect the surrounding ecology or produce physical instability. Excavation can increase silt within the water column or release toxins from a wreck or the sediment. An environmental management plan should be required as a matter of policy by the competent authority to ensure that these matters are fully addressed.

 See Rule 29

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Collaboration with museums and other institutions

Sites of underwater cultural heritage are typically highly complex and include many aspects of public and academic interest. Collaboration is the key to maximising both the expertise and the information that can be gained from these sites. Museums specialise in making artefacts and scientific information accessible to the public. Universities and other institutions focus on scientific research and training. Cultural heritage agencies develop policies and procedures that provide cohesive, coordinated and consistent site management for overall public benefit. The project design should indicate how effective collaboration with existing institutions will be achieved.

 See Rules 32 - 34

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Report preparation

Well-structured project reports need to provide a thorough record of the project and address all aspects of the authorized Project Design. The project report will be an important source of information for any future decisions concerning the site, as well as for future scientific analysis and synthesis. It is therefore important that the report be as factual as possible and that observations and interpretations can clearly be distinguished.

 See Rules 30 - 31

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Deposition of archives


The Rules define the project archives as including both the documentation and the underwater cultural heritage removed from a site. Ideally, both will be stored together. In practice, this is not always possible, as different materials have different requirements. The project design should indicate how these issues will be addressed in accordance with guidance from the competent authorities. Two equally important considerations apply. One is the integrity of site, documentation and collection. The other is appropriate access for researchers and the general public. All documentation regarding underwater cultural heritage – including heritage removed from a site – should be stored in an archival environment to ensure it is retained and available for future generations. Appropriate storage should be established for records such as photographs, drawings, field notes, reports and any other electronic data. Museums, cultural heritage management agencies, government libraries and other dedicated archive facilities may all be suitable repositories.

See Rules 32 - 34

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Programme for publication

The information gained from investigation of sites of underwater cultural heritage is essentially public information. It is therefore important that any project directed at underwater cultural heritage include a commitment to publish the findings of that work. This should include popular media, such as newspapers, magazines, videos, television, internet sites, web blogs, as well as academic publications, so that the results can be examined and tested by peers and other scientists.

See Rules 35 - 36

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