Jamaica to host regional training to safeguard Underwater Cultural Heritage
November 2, 2012
Sunken cities, shipwrecks, marine infrastructures - all together referred to as treasures or Underwater Cultural Heritage have existed safely on the ocean floor for many centuries. Now they are in danger.
The treasures have remained safe and preserved for hundreds of years because they were hidden and inaccessible to most people. However new, modern and relatively inexpensive equipment now reveal these hidden and formerly inaccessible treasures to anyone looking for them, making the Underwater Cultural Heritage vulnerable to theft and destruction.
'The easy availability of scanners that detect the presence of foreign objects under the seabed, infrared cameras, remotely operated vehicles (ROV) and retrieval equipment have made it less challenging for treasure hunters to locate and steal artefacts', said the Technical Director of Archaeology at the Jamaica National Heritage Trust, Dorrick Gray. He pointed out that artefacts are also susceptible to damage and destruction through certain fishing techniques as well as through construction on the shoreline and offshore.
This is a troubling development for heritage protection agencies in countries, such as Jamaica, that have significant Underwater Cultural Heritage to keep safe. With the support of UNESCO, the JNHT is facilitating a training programme for 20 Caribbean countries on safeguarding their Underwater Cultural Heritage from new and emerging threats.
The Training Course begins on Monday, 5 November 2012 in Port Royal. The month-long Foundation Training Course is one of the outcomes of the UNESCO Caribbean meeting on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage which was held last year May in Port Royal. That meeting identified that the Caribbean region, as a whole, did not have sufficiently trained people to 'properly manage and preserve underwater archaeological sites'. The meeting also found that legislative changes were necessary, but concluded that 'professional capacity-building was the key to successfully safeguarding the Underwater Cultural Heritage'.
The conducting of the Foundation Course is the first stage of a long-term plan of action to address capacity-building in the management and preservation of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. According to the JNHT Executive Director, Laleta Davis-Mattis, the agency 'is working with UNESCO and other partners to develop Advanced Training Courses to complement the Foundation Course and to establish in Port Royal a training centre for the Caribbean in underwater archaeological site management and conservation'. She explained that Port Royal was 'considered ideal for this type of training owing to the nature and significance of the Underwater Cultural Heritage associated with the site'.
Port Royal was consumed by an earthquake in 1692 during which two-thirds of the city sank into the sea. The sunken portion of the city has remained as it was on the day of the earthquake and provides a suitable location for the many practical applications of the training course, including surveying, mapping and research.
One of the main aims of this first training course is to bring participants of uncommon levels of training and experience to a common level of understanding of the multi-disciplinary nature of underwater archaeology and management of underwater cultural sites. The course will expose participants to international best practices.
The course will be conducted by international experts and resource people from Jamaica, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, United States and Spain. Jamaica ratified the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage in 2011.
For more contact:
Oliver Watt | Director of Communications
Jamaica National Heritage Trust
Mobile: 564-9198 | email@example.com
Jamaica National Heritage Trust