Underwater Cultural Heritage

When we talk about Underwater Cultural Heritage, we are not just talking about sunken ships. This concept is much broader and encompasses all traces of human existence with cultural, historical, or archaeological characteristics that have been underwater, partially or totally, periodically or continuously, for at least 100 years (UNESCO Convention 2001).

Therefore, when we talk about Underwater Cultural Heritage, we are not only talking about ships and their cargoes, but also about planes, port structures or even structures originally built on land that over time were flooded by water.

What is the UNESCO Convention of 2001?

This Convention is the international legal regulation for the Underwater Cultural Heritage. Although previously there were isolated laws dealing with underwater cultural heritage, there was no international legal system to regulate such an important matter as underwater heritage. The Convention was held to fill this legal void, and that is one of its greatest virtues.

Spain ratified the “UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage from 2001” on July 6, 2005, thus acquiring a permanent commitment to the defence, study, and valuation of this important set of cultural heritage assets.