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Forum Presentation on the ‘Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage: Building up the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road’ at Xiamen University in November 2014, and the ‘International Conference on the Maritime World of East Asia in the 16-19th Century’ at City University of Hong Kong in July 2015.

Authored by Bill Jeffery PhD, Research Associate, Hong Kong Maritime Museum; Assistant Professor University of Guam.


In Hong Kong, located adjacent to one of the departure ports for the ‘Maritime Silk Road’, the author has been working with some of Hong Kong’s 70,000 scuba divers, and the Hong Kong Maritime Museum to develop the first program in recording and documenting Hong Kong’s underwater cultural heritage. This has included conducting training programs and implementing projects such as the development of a site database, and survey and excavation projects. A recent discovery of a Song/Yuan Dynasty anchor stock, the earliest ship remains found in Hong Kong, has stimulated interest in furthering the program. In Tanzania, the author has been working with government officials to assist in the formation of the ‘Competent Authority’ as required in the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage 2001, and in the identification of benefits to Tanzania in ratifying this convention. Many Chinese ceramics were exported to Tanzania and collected by wealthy Swahili merchants from c. 11th Century in such places as the World Heritage listed port-city of Kilwa Kisiwani, where they are found today. From the 1950s, China and Tanzania have been forging new trade and development. More recently China has been embarking on a new ‘Maritime Silk Road’ to Tanzania and assisting in a number of projects, including the development of a port costing $10 billion at the historic port of Bagamoyo, and the establishment of a Chinese Cultural Centre. This presentation explores underwater cultural heritage initiatives in the context of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage 2001 and thecontemporary ‘Maritime Silk Road’.