Cultural heritage is one of the most important aspects for any society or nation as it defines their history, traditions and customs. It also helps in promoting their culture to other parts of the world. The need for preserving underwater cultural heritage is increasing day by day due to various reasons. One such reason is that many cultural assets are being lost due to natural disasters like tsunamis and earthquakes. The First rule that UNESCO’s Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage of 2001 is conveying is In situ preservation. Preserving underwater heritage through in situ preservation shall be considered as the first option because this method has proved to be an effective way in protecting cultural assets form erosion caused by waves, currents and winds.
What are the different types of Underwater Cultural Heritage?
There are many different types of underwater cultural heritage, each with its own unique value and importance. The most common types are shipwrecks, sunken cities, and submerged archaeological sites.
Shipwrecks are perhaps the most well-known type of underwater cultural heritage. They provide a fascinating glimpse into the past, telling the story of how our ancestors travelled and traded. Many shipwrecks also contain valuable cargo, which can give us insights into the technologies and cultures of the time.
Sunken cities are another type of underwater cultural heritage that can provide insights into our past. These cities were often lost due to natural disasters, such as earthquakes or volcanoes. By studying these sunken cities, we can learn about the architecture and engineering of the time, as well as the everyday lives of the people who lived there.
Submerged archaeological sites are another type of underwater cultural heritage that can tell us about our past. These sites are usually found in river valleys or other areas where water has receded over time, revealing hidden ruins that were once above ground. By studying these sites, we can learn about the cultures that inhabited them and the events that led to their demise.
What is the in situ preservation and how do we protect our underwater cultural heritage?
The in situ preservation is the first and foremost option to protect our underwater cultural heritage. It is a process where the archaeological site is left undisturbed in its original location. This allows for future generations to learn about and appreciate the site as it was meant to be seen. There are many ways to go about in situ preservation, but some of the most common methods include creating buffer zones, reburial, and site stabilization.
Buffer zones are created around an archaeological site in order to keep people and boats from coming too close and damaging the site. These zones can be created through a variety of means such as buoys, nets, or even sunken ships. Reburial is another method of in situ preservation where the site is covered over with sediment in order to protect it from the elements. This method is often used in conjunction with site stabilization, which involves reinforcing the surrounding area in order to prevent further erosion.
There are many reasons why in situ preservation is important. Not only does it allow us to protect our underwater cultural heritage, but it also allows us to learn more about our history and how our ancestors lived. In situ preservation is a crucial part of ensuring that our past is not forgotten.
Why is in situ preservation the best option when it comes to underwater cultural heritage?
When it comes to the protection of underwater cultural heritage, in situ preservation is always the best option. This is because in situ preservation leaves the site and artefacts in their original location and context, which is crucial for understanding the site and its significance.
In addition, in situ preservation is much more cost-effective than excavating a site and moving artefacts to a museum or other location. It is also less disruptive to the environment and helps to protect the integrity of the site.
There are some situations where it is not possible to preserve a site in situ, such as when it is threatened by development or natural disasters. In these cases, excavating the site and moving artefacts to a safe location may be the only option. However, every effort should be made to preserve sites in situ whenever possible.
Challenges and weaknesses on in situ preservation
It is estimated that there are over 100 million shipwrecks worldwide, with many more likely yet to be discovered. Given the sheer number of wrecks, it is not possible to preserve all of them in situ (in their original location). In fact, most experts agree that in situ preservation should only be attempted where it is feasible and where there is a high likelihood of success.
There are a number of challenges and weaknesses associated with in situ preservation, which include:
1. The cost of carrying out in situ preservation can be prohibitively expensive.
2. There is often a lack of trained personnel and expertise available to carry out in situ preservation projects.
3. In some cases, the physical environment in which a wreck is located may be too hostile or dangerous for effective in situ preservation to be possible.
4. There may be other cultural heritage sites located nearby which could be adversely affected by the presence of a shipwreck (for example, if it was to leak oil or other pollutants).
5. In some instances, the legal owner of a shipwreck may not be willing to allow in situ preservation to take place.
6. There is always a risk that a cultural heritage sites can be looted
The protection of underwater cultural heritage is a complex issue, but in situ preservation should always be the first option. This approach is the most effective way to preserve these valuable resources for future generations. In addition, in situ preservation also has the potential to generate economic benefits through tourism and research. We must continue to fight for the protection of our underwater cultural heritage and ensure that these treasures are preserved for future generations.
Free download of the UNESCO Manual (Link www.unesco.org/culture/en/underwater/pdf/UCH-Manual.pdf)