Maritime Archaeology

The traces of our rich maritime history can be found everywhere around the globe. International cooperation and knowledge exchange in the field of maritime heritage are of great importance, as they are crucial factors in the management and preservation of this unique heritage.

Twee duikers onderwater bij het scheepswrak De Utrecht
Image: ©André Lima / RCE
Onderzoek aan het scheepswrak De Utrecht

International cooperation

The Cultural Heritage Agency, together with the Central Government Real Estate Agency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is responsible for the management and preservation of Dutch shipwrecks located outside the Netherlands’ territorial waters. The shipwrecks involved are under Dutch ownership. The ships may have belonged to the West India Company (WIC), the East India Company (VOC) or the Admiralty, for example.

In order to further refine the management protocols in place for maritime heritage, we pursue cooperation within two frameworks: the Shared Cultural Heritage Programme and the policy framework for the management of shipwrecks under Dutch ownership. These frameworks constitute the basis for the Agency’s Maritime Programme. In addition to SCH projects, we also work with other countries in the context of the Maritime Programme.

Caring for maritime shared heritage

Dutch shipwrecks are discovered every year, both in European waters and in far-flung oceans and seas. It is estimated that there are hundreds of wrecks in total, while only a small percentage have been localised. The Shared Cultural Heritage Programme enables the Agency to develop and support projects focused on maritime archaeology. Activities include training, research and advice. The projects contribute to:

  • collecting and enhancing knowledge on overseas maritime heritage
  • knowledge exchange
  • capacity building of professionals in SCH partner countries
  • promoting awareness

The Agency cooperates with governments and other parties involved in maritime heritage in the partner countries. What does it mean to be (jointly) responsible for the protection and management of Dutch wrecks in their waters? The Agency supports and facilitates the partners in SCH partner countries in shouldering this shared responsibility.

Examples of our projects

Shared cultural heritage of Japan and the Netherlands

Japan and the Netherlands share a dynamic history and still maintain strong cultural ties. The foundation was laid in 1600 when the galleon ‘de Liefde’ stranded on the shores of Japan. Researchers inventoried the shared heritage, including maritime heritage, archives, historical architecture, urban planning and museum collections. Read the final report

Research on shipwreck ‘De Utrecht’

An exploratory study was conducted in 2012 on the Dutch admiralty shipwreck ‘De Utrecht’, which sank in the 17th century in the bay of Salvador Bahia de Todos los Santos (Allerheiligenbaai) in Brazil. The study resulted in a number of publications and was also discussed in the Dutch television programme ‘De Wereld Leert Door’ on 14 January 2013. Watch the television item in ‘De Wereld Leert Door’ (in Dutch).

UNESCO field school for Underwater Cultural Heritage

The Agency regularly organises (multilateral) training courses on research, conservation and management of maritime heritage. These courses are supported by UNESCO and they also follow the principles of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage (2001). The course has been given in Thailand, Jamaica, Sint Eustatius and Vietnam.