BOEM and BSEE Update Guidance for Offshore Archaeological Protection

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) today issued guidance to oil and gas companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) extending existing guidance on how to conduct archaeological resources surveys and prepare archaeological reports, and adding certain additional areas for examination based on new information about the likely location of historical resources.

“There are more than 2,100 historic shipwrecks in the Federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and we have a shared responsibility to protect our cultural and historical resources,” said BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau. “In light of new information, recent discoveries, and advances in hydrographic survey technology, we are updating our guidance to operators to help meet this responsibility.”

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EH Military Aircraft Crash Sites guidance feedback

Over the coming months English Heritage intends to review its 2002 guidance note Military Aircraft Crash Sites: Archaeological Guidance on their Significance and Management. Following further discussion with key stakeholders such as the Joint Casualty & Compassionate Centre, the Royal Air Force Air Historical Branch, and the Royal Air Force Museum, English Heritage revised the guidance in 2012. Whilst the original document was one of high popularity, much has changed since it was originally issued, and continuing demand from both the public and professional archaeologists for information on this aspect of 20th century heritage makes revision timely.

Therefore English Heritage is looks for some feedback from either groups regarding the document. Particularly the following issues

  • Are there topics in the existing guidance document that you would like to see expanded, or are there areas where you feel more information or links would be useful?
  • Do you feel that the guidance is helpful, or if not, how could it be improved? Are there errors in the original document?

Comments should be sent by Monday February 6th 2012 using the email address:

Alternatively, you can respond by post using the address: Military Aircraft Crash Sites Archaeological Guidance Consultation Government Advice Team English Heritage 1 Waterhouse Square 138-142 Holborn London EC1N 2ST

Looking further ahead, as part of the National Heritage Protection Plan, English Heritage will also be developing a project together with partners in local Historic Environment Records and volunteers to gather data on aircraft crash sites. Initially this will be focusing on selected trial areas to test and develop a suitable methodology. 

If you require an alternative accessible version of this document (for instance in audio, Braille or large print) please contact our Customer Services Department: Telephone: 0870 333 1181 Fax: 01793 414926 Textphone: 0800 015 0516 E-mail:

Private-Eye on heritage management

Dutch salvage contractors are cutting up the wrecks of three British warships in the North Sea which mark the graves of 1,459 Royal Navy sailors. The cruisers HMS Aboukir, HMS Hogue and HMS Cressy were torpedoed by the German submarine U-9 off the Dutch coast on 22 September 1914.

The Royal Naval Association, archaeologists and diving organisations have protested about the looting and desecration of the wrecks, but neither the British nor Dutch government has taken any action to halt the salvage teams who are believed to be trying to retrieve copper, bronze and other valuable metals…

Read full article on Private-Eye website

War grave thief convicted

A Defence Policy and Business news article

22 Nov 11
A Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) investigation has resulted in the successful conviction of a diver who removed items from the protected military wreck HMS Duke of Albany.

MDP detectives based at HM Naval Base Clyde began their inquiry after receiving a complaint from Navy Command. It followed a referral by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency that a group of divers had visited the First World War wreck and illegally removed items from the war grave.

The detectives used evidence posted on Facebook to help identify suspects and in September 2010 an individual was visited at his home in Leicestershire and interviewed under caution.

Go to the complete article

Underwater archeology reaches new depths

Ancient artifacts and secret monuments from centuries ago are buried deep at the bottom of the seabed. Shipwrecks and sunken cargoes found within various oceans around the world. Whether they are the remnants of fallen cities or contain treasures from former kingdoms, the mystery of underwater archeology piques the interests of scientists, government officials and commercial or leisure divers.

Over the years, they also become the object of archaeological fascination and the target of so-called “black archaeologists”, or treasure-hunters that rob the site in search of any items they can sell. Besides, any interference of such amateur archeologists can potentially disrupt and destroy the historic integrity of the settlement and threaten its very existence.

Under the UNESCO’s Norway-funded project on “Safeguarding the Underwater Cultural Heritage of Asia and the Pacific,” the Regional Advanced training Course on In Situ Preservation of Underwater Cultural Heritage took place over a span of eight days in October, beginning with classroom instruction in the mornings and on-site diving in the afternoons. Heavy emphasis was placed on the five points of In Situ: significance, threats, reasons for preservation, choice of technique, and monitor.

“This [In Situ Preservation] is one of the main subjects for the UNESCO Convention 2001. It’s not just only about leaving sites on the seabed; it’s about managing them as well, protecting them to avoid deterioration of the sites. People should understand if they should do it, how they should do it, why they should do it,” explained In Situ course trainer, Martijn Manders and representative of the International Committee on Underwater Cultural Heritage of ICOMOS . “If you say ‘we leave them In Situ’, it does not mean we abandon them. But it means we consider them to be important, of high significance. And we want to keep them for specific purposes and these purposes can be for scientific reasons because you don’t have the capacity yet or the money yet to excavate, and you just need a little bit more time to plan all your work,” said Mr. Manders.

In Situ preservation is a relatively new development in underwater archaeology and it is the preservation of underwater cultural heritage in its original location. It is also recommended as the first choice to leave archaeological sites as undamaged as possible.

David Gregory, co-trainer and representative from the National Museum of Denmark, offered another perspective. “There’s very little information for what that actually means, and that makes it very difficult to do anything. So over time, they are going to corrode and disappear. Even though we are trying to preserve them In Situ, we have to accept that we can’t slow down the process of time and these things are going to disappear some time.”

The UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage was adopted in 2001, as a means to complement the 1982 UN Law of the Seas, which failed to mention shipwrecks. However, it was not ratified until 2009 and is still not ratified by the UK, France, Philippines, Russia, China or the US.

“A big problem is that we don’t have a budget big enough to do many underwater archaeological projects or any sort of research underwater because it’s expensive,” said Ligaya Lacsina, Museum Researcher from the National Museum of Philippines.

Ms. Lacsina is one of the 15 participants from nine countries (Cambodia, Indonesia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand) that took part at the recent training. This was implemented in collaboration with the Underwater Archaeology Division of Thailand at the Khao Laem Ya, Moo Koh Samet National Park, Rayong Province, Thailand.

Earlier the foundation courses were organized also in Thailand to give participants a basic understanding of underwater cultural heritage management. The training began in 2009 and specialized field school took place in 2010. This year, financial support from the donor government of Norway ended with the final course on In Situ Preservation in October 2011.

The objective of the foundation courses is to train maritime archaeologists, conservators and maritime heritage officers together from around the Asia-Pacific. A Training Manual for the Foundation Course will be published for the continuing use of the Regional Field Training Centre established in Chanthaburi, Thailand, and for use or adaptation by other UNESCO-sponsored training programmes elsewhere in the world.

The UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage is an important legal instrument for the protection of underwater cultural heritage. UNESCO’s role in the protection of the underwater cultural heritage focuses on improving the legal protection of underwater cultural heritage, building capacity in underwater archaeology, and raising awareness of underwater cultural heritage among the public.

Written by: Emily Chu, UNESCO Bangkok