A regional fast response team for maritime salvage?

An archaeologist in the Singapore-based Nalanda Sriwijaya Centre has an interesting proposal in the news last week, the creation of a fast-response Maritime Arcaeology centre, based in Singapore.

Singapore can take lead in salvaging of maritime artefacts
Today, 22 May 2015

One solution is to establish a centralised South-east Asian Institute of Maritime Archaeology. Such an institute could work closely with existing regional institutions that lack funding, equipment or expertise. It could provide a well-trained fast-response team to commence archaeological excavation of shipwrecks that are discovered as a result of arresting looters or as a consequence of trawl-net hang-ups.

When not excavating, the team could conduct remote-sensing surveys in wreck-prone areas to find and excavate sites before the destruction begins. The institution could be staffed by all participating countries, but should ideally recruit locally for each project.

Artefacts should remain the property of the country in which there are found. Having been conserved, catalogued and researched, a representative collection could be made available as a travelling exhibit or go on semi-permanent loan.

Something must be done, and quickly, as the non-renewable resource of underwater cultural heritage is fast disappearing from the exploited South-east Asian seabed. Singapore is well placed geographically, economically, academically and historically to lead the way. Existing institutions or universities could facilitate the establishment of an institute.

The powerful marine sector could provide some funding. Through a recent heritage exhibition, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore demonstrated a keen interest in the history of its business. A world-class maritime archaeology institute would be a magnificent manifestation of Singapore’s seafaring roots indeed.

Full story here.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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