Chronology of legislation for the protection of the underwater cultural heritage
Compiled by Daniel Zwick M.A.
1970 - 14th November, Paris
The UNESCO passes the 'UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property', which is at first not adopted by the German Federal Government.
1992 - 16th January, Valetta
The Council of Europe passes the 'European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage', which seeks to ensure the optimum conservation and enhancement of the archaeological heritage by the co-operation among archeologists and town and regional planners. Also cultural heritage under water is included. This bill was ratified by the German Federal Government on 22.1.2003 and is in force since 23.7.2003. Further information >
1995 - 24th June, Rome
The aforementioned UNESCO convention covers only international but not civil law. Therefore the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT) was commissioned with the drafting of the 'UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects'. This convention has never been ratified by the German Federal Government. View convention >
1997 - 19th March, Bonn
Despite requests by the Deutscher Archäologen Verband (German Federation of Archaeologists) the German Federal Government declined to sign the 'UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects' of the 24th June 1995.
1999 - 18th - 21st February, Sassnitz
The participants of the first International Congress for Underwater Archaeology (IKUWA 1), initiated by the DEGUWA, drew up a resolution for the protection of the underwater cultural heritage, which was brought forward to the UNESCO. View article >
The round table discussion, which gave rise to this resolution, is published (in English) in the IKUWA-1 proceedings Schutz des Kulturerbes unter Wasser. View publication >
2000 - March, Berlin
Germany has again not signed the 'UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects'! View article >
2001 - 2nd November, Paris.
The 'UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage' was adopted by 87 votes in favour, 4 against and 15 abstentions. Germany abstaines its vote and has not ratified this convention until the present day. View summary > | View bill >
2006 – 15th February, Berlin
Finally the German Federal Government ratified the bill for the 1970 'UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property'. Significantly the late date of ratification was mainly substantiated by the fear that "disadvantages for the German art trade" were anticipated. View bill >
However there is arguably a catch in this: Archaeological artefacts, which are not listed in the federal gazette (e.g. unknown finds from pillaged sites) would not be covered by the legal protection. Hence notable German archaeologists exert vehement resistance to this bill.
2006 - 27th April, Erlangen
The DEGUWA joined the aforementioned protest and appealed to the members of the committee for Culture & Media of the German Federal Diet: "(...) such a law is unworthy for a culture-nation! The DEGUWA demands emphatically to alter the bill, so that in principle all archaeological finds - whether known or unknown - in the soil and in the seas, lakes and rivers will be protected (...)". View protest letter >
2006 - May-July, Berlin
Statements by members of the German Federal Diet to abovementioned protest letter by Prof. Dr. Christoph Börker:
Answer of Monika Griefahn MP (SPD)
Answer of Wolfgang Börnsen MP (CDU)
Answer of Wolfgang Thierse MP (SPD)
(Last update: 20th November 2006)