On 8 June 2020, the webinar “The Ocean’s Past – Underwater Archaeology and Ocean Science” was organized by UNESCO’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Body to the 2001 Convention, the Ocean Decade Heritage Network, and Alexandria University (Egypt) in preparation of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021 – 2030). Professor Emad Khali, head of the Centre for Maritime Archaeology and Underwater Cultural Heritage of the Faculty of Arts, Alexandria University, moderated the discussions.
« For many states, underwater cultural heritage is an important part of the Ocean Decade. This unique heritage and related research contribute to understanding the impact of climate change on human life and the social and historical importance of the ocean for civilisation,» said Lazare Eloundou Assomo, Director of Culture and Emergencies in the Culture Sector of UNESCO.
Hundreds of Participants presented on-going cutting edge projects illustrated by films and pictures that demonstrate how cultural heritage is an essential element for ocean research. International underwater archaeology and oceanography experts joined the online event. Many of the questions concerned the inter-relation between the different ocean sciences and cultural heritage. Participants also discussed training and cooperation opportunities and stressed the importance of cultural heritage for today’s world and for connecting people to the ocean.
“The 'archaeological' underwater cultural heritage sites such as shipwrecks or ancient sea ports should be further studied, but the 'living underwater cultural heritage’ sites such as stone tidal weirs or coastal landscapes, which are now disappearing under our eyes, are especially essential in terms of the Ocean Decade. In particular, the stone tidal weir contains 'intangible' local and indigenous knowledge on the sea and its ecology,” said Professor Akifumi Iwabuchi from Japan.
In the final public debate, the experts emphasized that cultural heritage is essential in motivating the public to support the ocean decade, and the ‘human factor’ identified in underwater cultural heritage should be promoted along with efforts to foster ocean preservation.