Heritage and the Politics of Culture
Shipwrecks and Shards. The Ethical Side of Shipwreck Salvages.
Ms. Christine Ketel. PhD. Candidate, LIAS, Leiden University.
Ceramics from shipwreck sites have provided new and important information on the trade routes and the types of items shipped to overseas destinations. However, researchers should also consider the ethical side of shipwreck salvages. In 2001, the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage was drafted and made effective in 2009.
The discussion I will put forward is whether researchers should use data from shipwrecks that have been commercially salvaged and not documented according to the methods used by professional maritime archaeologists.
Another issue is whether items, which have been salvaged in an unethical way should be taken up in museums. Is it better ‘to get something than nothing at all’ or should those items be left to private collectors?
In 1987 China enacted its Regulation on Protection and Administration of Underwater Cultural Relics that provides a legal framework for the protection and management of historic shipwrecks. In this way a government can control and finance the salvage and research of sunken ships and their cargo, thereby preserving the country’s cultural heritage.
It cannot be denied that finds from shipwrecks are an essential addition to documents and historical facts to analyse trade routes, the types and the dating of ceramics transported from place to place throughout the history of maritime trade. We should therefore, keep it mind that these items are part of world heritage and be treated with respect.