In many regions of the world, the seafloor contains a fascinating archive of human history. This also applies to the North Sea and Baltic Sea. Their floors are not only home to shipwrecks, they also harbour remnants of human settlement from prehistoric times when these seas were still just dry land. Yet this underwater cultural heritage is not enjoying sufficient protection. Gravel and sand harvesting, wind turbine construction, cable laying and fishing activities could lead to these archaeological traces being lost forever. The German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina has released the discussion paper “Traces under Water – Exploring and Protecting the Cultural Heritage in the North Sea and Baltic Sea” to raise awareness of the value of the cultural heritage found in the depths of the North Sea and Baltic Sea. The paper’s authors describe the importance of this heritage and recommend measures for effectively protecting it.
The authors of the publication illustrate the profound importance of the cultural heritage in the North Sea and Baltic Sea for archaeological research in Germany and the other states bordering the two seas. According to the authors, in Germany, the underwater cultural heritage has been explored much less than that on land. At the same time, there is a lot of pressure to economically exploit the seas and the seafloors – a trend that is only expected to increase. Thus, two primary objectives are laid out in the discussion paper. Firstly, the investigations of the cultural heritage in the North Sea and Baltic Sea should be comprehensive and be carried out to the same high scientific standard as those on land. Secondly, Germany should establish protective measures in its exclusive economic zone which are just as effective as those which have long been in effect on land. The authors’ recommended measures for protecting the underwater cultural heritage and bolstering underwater archaeology include:
We present these potential paths of action and more in our discussion paper “Traces under Water – Exploring and Protecting the Cultural Heritage in the North Sea and Baltic Sea”.
The “Leopoldina discussions” series publishes contributions by the authors named. The Academy’s discussion papers offer scientists the opportunity to present thought-provoking ideas and to encourage and guide discussions flexibly and outside of formal working group processes.
Interviews with authors of the discussion paper are gladly arranged.
Dr. Christian Anton
Scientific Officer, Department Science-Policy-Society
Tel.: +49 (0)345 472 39-861
Dr. Constanze Breuer
Scientific Officer, Depart ment Science-Policy-Society
Tel.: +49 (0)345 472 39-872
Email: constanze.breuer @leopoldina.org