The Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) is currently involved in one project in Cuba: 'Dutch presence in Cuban waters'. In this project which is conducted in cooperation with the Cuban National Council for the Cultural Heritage (CNPC), the presence and impact of Dutch ships in Cuba is investigated, with a particular focus on 17th century shipwrecks of Dutch origin.
Dutch Presence in Cuban Waters
In 1994 Cuban divers retrieved archaeological objects from a site northwest of Cuba. The objects suggested that the site was Dutch. In 2010 Dutch journalist Esther van Gent made contact with Cuban archaeologist Dr. Ovidio Ortega Pereyra. They wrote a joint proposal to further investigate the site, with the help of the RCE. This resulted in the project 'The Dutch Presence in Cuban Waters' which is running since 2013.
In the first years of the project (2013-2014), several methods were used: archive studies (in Cuban, Dutch and Spanish archives), archaeological research on salvaged objects (which include a tobacco box from 1698 with an image of Nieuwe Kerk church in Amsterdam), value assessments of two possibly Dutch wrecks and research into the forts built in Cuba to repel Dutch attacks. Results were presented at the museum exhibition 'Presencia holandesa en la aguas cubanas' (2014) at the Castillo de la Real Fuerza in Old Havana.
In 2019, fieldwork was conducted on three sites where ships of the fleet of Dutch privateer Cornelis Jol (1597-1641) of the West India Company presumably have sunk. These ships were the Bul van Hoorn, the Keizerin and the Alkmaar. A report on this fieldwork was published in 2021. Consecutive fieldwork was planned for the Zorrita la Tabla site, a site in which many Dutch artefacts have been found in the past, but due to the coronavirus pandemic this work has been delayed until further notice.