Theme for November: Underwater Cultural Heritage

Underwater Cultural Heritage: Sunken Ruins at Alexandria. Image Courtesy: Earthables

The immensity of the problem of ongoing commercial exploitation and pillaging of underwater cultural heritage sites is largely unnoticeable by the public. What sits on the ocean floor is invisible historic treasure. Too often its disappearance remains hidden. Yet, the number of salvaged artefacts is in the millions.’


This November, we are focussing on a category of heritage that many of us are unaware of – Underwater Cultural Heritage. Apart from being abundant in natural heritage, water bodies are also home to sunken cultural heritage treasures. Therefore excavation, interpretation and  preservation of these cultural artefacts are of grave importance as they aid us understanding the past better. With advancement in technology, underwater and maritime archaeology and research has garnered much needed impetus toward uncovering the secrets of the past, submerged under water.

In 2001 UNESCO adopted the Convention on the Protection of  the Underwater Cultural Heritage. The Convention defined underwater  cultural  heritage as, ‘all  traces  of  human  existence  having  a  cultural,  historical  or  archaeological  character  which  have  been  partially  or  totally  under  water,  periodically  or  continuously,  for  at  least  100  years’.

Here is giving you a glimpse into the richness of underwater heritage:

Submerged human settlements– Did you know just along the shores of Mediterranean there are more than 150 sunken cities and port structures?

Human Remains at Cenote, Mexico
Human Remains at Cenote, Mexico
The submerged city of Thonis-Heracleion, Egypt Image Courtesy:
The submerged city of Thonis-Heracleion, Egypt
Image Courtesy:

Caves and wells– Caves and wells have managed to preserve many of the artefacts and traces of ancient civilisations. Some examples being:

Aktunkab, or the cave of hands, is a partly submerged 8000 years old cave in Mexico.
Entrance to a submerged cave in Mexico
The Cosquer Cave, France- This 37 meters deep underwater cave feature prehistoric paintings and engravings which are 27.000 and 19,000 years old. Image Courtesy: Bradshaw Foundation

Wrecks– Ocean floors are also contain traces of human travel, adventures and wars. It is estimated that 3 million shipwrecks are spread across the ocean floors. There are also other remenats such as submerged airplane wrecks, military equipments etc.

rms-titanicRMS Titanic

Wrecked Cargo Ship
WW1 Steamer Ship
Severence, sunken ship at the Great Barrier Reef

Ports, Bridges, Constructions: There are countless number of submerged ports, bridges and other form of water related built structures, which too form a large category of underwater heritage.

Roman Concrete Bath, Caesarea

Stay tuned as we bring to you the cultural marvels submerged deep in water and uncover the mysteries of these forgotten artefacts.

Get involved with the theme! We invite you to write articles, send us photos, videos related to underwater heritage. We would love to hear from you!

  • gounesco

    GoUNESCO is a UNESCO supported umbrella of initiatives that make heritage fun! Currently these include global travel challenges, a student program, Go Heritage Runs and 'Make Heritage Fun!' events.

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