China's State-Led Working Model on Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage: Practice, Challenges, and Possible Solutions
Marine Policy, Volume 65, March 2016, Pages 39–47
Posted: 14 Dec 2016
Date Written: December 7, 2015
China is one of the most significant country with regard to underwater cultural heritage (UCH). One prominent feature of the Chinese regime on UCH protection is that the government has played a dominant and leading role. This paper first surveys this State-led working model and typical cases and then points out this model's major problems, including lack of staff and funds, the threat of looting and destruction, and the pressure from neighboring countries. Possible solutions consistent with the basic principles of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage are explored. It is argued that China shall strengthen preservation in situ as the first option. Considering the limitations of preservation in situ, an appropriate approach to excavation is also required, and a two-tier system of excavation is proposed. Under the proposed system, all sites of UCH should be protected; however, the government should concentrate its resources on the most significant UCH sites. For other sites, commercial involvement may be introduced in rescue excavation. Economic income from deposition and exhibition may provide the main incentive to salvage corporations. Nevertheless, the sale of artifacts recovered should be strictly forbidden.
Keywords: Underwater cultural heritage; State-led working model; preservation in situ; Ban of commercial exploitation; Salvage; Two-tier system of excavation
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