Sub-Regional Meeting for the Gulf on the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage

© B. Jeffrey
Wreck covered by corals

This UNESCO sub-regional meeting, gathering participants from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen, aims at discussing the development of underwater archaeology in the region, capacity-building, research, cooperation and the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage.
In the Gulf Region underwater archaeological research is still developing. However, the potential of this discipline is immense.

Indeed, for 90% of human existence, sea levels have been lower than present by as much as 130 m. The current sea level was only established about 6,000 years ago. As humans mainly lived close to the water, a large majority of humanity's development took place on areas that are now submerged. It is only within the past decade that there has been recognition of how important the missing data on the submerged shelf is. With the speeding up of research of submerged landscapes underwater cultural heritage comes more and more in the focus of the States of the Gulf region. As the waters of the Gulf are relatively shallow with an average at about 35 metres, it can be assumed that prior to 14,000 years ago this now submerged area was an open landscape with a supply of fresh water from Euphrates and Tigris. Realising the importance of the available data, seismic reflection surveys are now undertaken.

Of huge scientific potential is also the research of the historic maritime past of the States of the Gulf. For centuries, Arab States have ruled the waves. Throughout the 7th-13th centuries, they maintained a wide trade network across Asia, Africa and Europe, which made them the world's leading extensive economic power. The remains of Arab shipwrecks, as well as the wrecks of foreign ships, like for instance Portuguese ships, can be supposed to be still preserved on the seabed. In addition to these wrecks, also ruins of coastal constructions and cities can be found under water, as for instance at Qa’lat Al-Bahrain.
Until now only one major shipwreck of the 9th century, the time of Arab seafaring’s glory, has been found, the Indonesian Belitung wreck. It was however destroyed in a rushed operation of cargo recovery by commercial salvagers. A major part of the available scientific information was lost. The story of this loss does serve to illustrate the need to protect underwater cultural heritage and to adopt appropriate scientific guidelines for its research and treatment, through the ratification and implementation of the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. This Convention is the leading legal instrument guiding underwater archaeology worldwide.


Type of Event Meeting by Member States or Institutions
Start 16.10.2012 08:00 local time
End 17.10.2012 17:00 local time
Date to be fixed 0
Focal point Guerin, Ulrike
Organizer Khalifa Ahmed Al-Khalifa, Directorate of Archeology and Heritage, Manama, Bahrain
Country Bahrain
City Manama
Permanent Delegation Contact
Major Programme
Language of Event English
Estimated number of participants .
Official Website
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