Sustainable preservation of underwater archaeological sites: A novel approach to cultural heritage management

Project: Research

Project Details


Cultural heritage is the legacy of tangible, intangible and natural heritage assets of a society that is inherited from past generations.
Preserving the remains of the past for the benefit of future generations is common in international heritage policy. Current management
practice advocates preserving underwater cultural heritage (UCH) where it lies on the seabed, in situ. However, this practice is questioned
due to a lack of understanding of the entangled threats posed by multiple natural and anthropogenic drivers. In a rapidly changing ocean
environment and increasing human exploitation of the marine environment, it is necessary to develop new concepts for assessing and
preserving this resource. With over 3,000,000 shipwrecks and thousands of submerged prehistoric sites lying on the floors of the world’s
oceans, ENDURE aims to disentangle both natural and anthropogenic decay processes, determine their cumulative and interactive effects
on UCH and proposes a novel conceptual framework to preserve this heritage based on site entropy. This will be achieved by: 1) Detect,
visualise and interpret the products of natural and anthropogenic decay of shipwrecks and submerged prehistoric sites using marine remote
sensing techniques integrated with natural and anthropogenic variables in a GIS platform; 2) Determine key natural processes and rates
of decay of archaeological materials in situ and in the laboratory; 3) Remotely identify and rank simultaneous decay processes, including
increasing threats to hidden and largely inaccessible heritage sites using ecosystem modelling, and 4) Propose novel intervention methods
to mitigate threats to UCH and where not possible, strategies for curated decay. Ultimately, ENDURE’s holistic structured framework
can be synergistically integrated and implemented by stakeholders and marine practitioners for a sustainable preservation of the marine
environment and the world’s underwater cultural legacy for future generations.
Short titleENDURE
Effective start/end date03/10/202201/10/2027

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