Sunday, 23 March 2014

Britain urged to protect underwater heritage

Dalya Alberge Britain urged to sign up to shipwreck treaty to protect underwater heritage The Observer, Sunday 23 March 2014
Britain's rich maritime legacy is under threat from commercial treasure hunters who are accused by experts of plundering and destroying the nation's underwater heritage. A group of leading archaeologists and historians warn that unless the government intervenes to protect scores of historically significant wrecks lying beyond the country's territorial waters, sites including the graves of those lost at sea could be exploited and lost for good. [...] The archaeologists want Britain to join 45 other nations in ratifying the 2001 Unesco convention on the protection of the underwater cultural heritage, a legal framework for protecting such sites. In a briefing document to be presented to William Hague, the foreign secretary, they warn that unless it signs up to the treaty, Britain will be largely incapable of protecting wrecks lying beyond its waters [...] Cunliffe voiced alarm that wrecks are disturbed and damaged in the hunt for cannon and potentially lucrative cargoes: "They are disturbing them in a way that no respectable archaeologist would do." He adds that many shipwrecks are at great depths, and the techniques are "rather crude and can be very destructive". [...] The report condemns Britain's position on commercial exploitation of shipwrecks as "ambiguous, attracting financial speculation". It said ratification of the Unesco treaty, which states that underwater cultural heritage cannot be commercially exploited, would send a strong signal to dissuade treasure hunters.
Not like on land, eh? Britain has no really good system for dissuading Treasure hunters there and so many sites have holes dug in them by spade-happy heroes, "disturbing them in a way that no respectable archaeologist would do".

Come on Professor Cunliffe and you other "leading scholars from Oxford University and the British Museum" first sort out the Treasure hunters just up the road on your own territory before you start trying to control what happens in international waters.

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