Thank you in advance for your cooperation

Protection of underwater cultural heritage

Editors: Hakan Öniz, Emad Khalil, Gustau Vivar.

Ernesto Ottone R.
Assistant Director, General of UNESCO for Culture 

On behalf of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, we are delighted to present this publication on underwater cultural heritage to the public. This book represents a culmination of international efforts and collaborative partnerships, acknowledging the invaluable cooperation with the World Underwater Federation (CMAS) and the International Scientific Committee on Underwater Cultural Heritage (ICOMOS-ICUCH). Together, we embark on a journey of discovery, conservation, and appreciation of the hidden treasures that lie beneath the world's oceans, lakes, and rivers.

Underwater cultural heritage is a testament to the intricate tapestry of human history, a living connection to our past that transcends time and borders. It encompasses a diverse range of submerged sites, including shipwrecks, sunken cities, ancient ports, and sacred sites, each holding invaluable clues to the civilizations that came before us. These submerged legacies tell stories of exploration, trade, cultural exchange, and the triumphs and tragedies that have shaped our world.

The protection and preservation of underwater cultural heritage are of paramount importance. It is through our collective efforts that we can ensure these fragile time capsules endure for future generations. UNESCO, CMAS, and ICOMOS-ICUCH recognize the significance of this mission and have collaborated tirelessly to raise awareness, advocate for responsible practices, and develop international guidelines and standards.

This book serves as a beacon, illuminating the wonders and challenges associated with underwater cultural heritage. It is a celebration of the courageous divers who venture into the depths, the passionate archaeologists who meticulously uncover history's secrets and the dedicated professionals who tirelessly work to protect and manage these precious underwater sites. It is also an invitation to the public to embark on a journey of exploration and appreciation, to become guardians of the submerged heritage that belongs to us all.

Within these pages, you will find a wealth of knowledge, expert insights, and captivating narratives that shed light on the significance of underwater cultural heritage. You will discover the critical role played by international cooperation, scientific research, and sustainable practices in safeguarding these submerged treasures. Moreover, you will witness the transformative power of underwater archaeology, as it unravels mysteries, challenges assumptions, and enhances our understanding of the past.

We extend our deepest gratitude to the World Underwater Federation (CMAS) and the International Scientific Committee on Underwater Cultural Heritage (ICOMOS-ICUCH) for their unwavering commitment and expertise. Their collaboration and invaluable contributions have enriched the content of this book and strengthened our collective resolve to protect and cherish the submerged heritage that lies within our reach.

We also express our sincere appreciation to the divers, researchers, professionals, and enthusiasts worldwide who have dedicated their lives to the study, preservation, and promotion of underwater cultural heritage. Your passion, determination, and unwavering dedication inspire us all.

It is our hope that this book serves as a source of inspiration and enlightenment, igniting a deep appreciation for the wonders that lie beneath the waves. Together, let us celebrate and protect our shared cultural heritage, embracing the responsibility to ensure its survival for generations to come.

Francisco Alberto Lacase
President, CMAS Scientific Committee 

The CMAS World Underwater Federation is seriously committed to the protection of underwater cultural heritage (UCH), and carries it out in different programs to raise awareness about the importance of its protection, as well as giving its divers training focused on sustainable diving techniques.

The CMAS scientific committee focuses its efforts on educating scientists and recreational divers to be part of a global UCH protection system. Prestigious archaeologists participated in the writing of this book, three of them directors of areas within our organization.

This book is part of our commitment to the sustainable development goals of the United Nations 2030 agenda and the UNESCO CMAS 2023 convention. Through citizen science we connect the scientific world with the universe of CMAS divers to create a relationship that brings us closer to our objectives of responsible diving and the protection of our submerged resources. We also provide scientists with a diving training system and with specific tools to perform their professional tasks effectively and safely in the underwater environment.

Through agreements with UNESCO and several universities, scientists from all over the world have access to our training programs for scientific divers, thus closing the virtuous circle where divers and archaeologists collaborate with each other to protect our cultural heritage. 

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