About JonSharfman

Jonathan Sharfman is a maritime archaeologist. He received his Master Degree from the University of Cape Town, South Africa and is currently completing his PhD at Leiden, Netherlands. Although he thinks he has a certain boyish charm, he’s just immature. Still, you can contact him: diveheritage@gmail.com Follow @JonSharfman on Twitter

Sophie Winton, ACHA’s archaeologist at large, is back with an update from Hoi An

Field Notes: Vietnam Training in Underwater Archaeology

Week 2 Wrap Up


Field school life has settled into a busy but steady rhythm and the second week of training flew by! The trainees have been split into 4 teams and have been working on various projects under the guidance of their team leaders and supervision of the trainers. Some of these projects are under water while others are taking place around Hoi An.

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Underwater search and recording methods

The shallow, sheltered waters of Cu Lao Cham provide relatively safe training grounds for new divers; except for when curious tourist boats come a little too close to diving operations or the Vietnamese military schedules artillery target practice! Despite these disruptions, the teams have been steadily improving their underwater communication, search and recording skills in areas of high underwater cultural heritage potential that were identified during the previous field season. This week, teams re-located and recorded a stone anchor, possibly of Arabic origin, and nearby ceramic scatter in shallow water.

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Ethnographic boat building

One way to better understand what we are searching for underwater, is to spend time with local boat builders to study the methods and materials that are used for constructing local vessels. This is also a great opportunity to get to know some of the locals and in doing so, learn more about local culture and possibly new sites to investigate. The teams spent time at various boat-building yards, recording interviews with the workers and the boats that were being built or repaired.

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Shipwreck ceramics

As mentioned above, we have found some ceramics on the beach and in shallow waters around Cu Lao Cham. Some of these ceramics have been tentatively dated to about 3000 BP! Ceramics are an indicator of the type and level of trade that has taken place in the region and so it is important for us to be able to identify and record them in as much detail as possible. The Hoi An Centre for Cultural Heritage Management and Preservation has a collection of shipwreck ceramics from archaeological and salvage operations in Vietnam and we were given access to them to study. This gave me flashbacks of first year archaeology where I was horrified to learn that LICKING the artefact is one way to ascertain what type of ceramic it is! Luckily, such drastic measures were not necessary in this instance and instead, we spent time honing our drawing skills, describing the artefacts in a database and practicing the 3D photogrammetry that Ian has been teaching us.

Foreign traders in Hoi An

Hoi An was a major center for trade between the 16th and 19th centuries, attracting traders from India, China, Japan, Portugal, England, Holland and more. The built environment of the Ancient Town bears testament to this period, as do the tombs of the foreign traders that can be found on the outskirts of town. We were tasked with locating and recording some of these tombs; a task that was easier said than done for some teams! We spent a rather hot morning trooping through the rice paddies in search of the elusive “third tomb” and learned some very important lessons in planning!


We were joined this week by Jun Kimura from Tokai University in Japan. A long-time partner in the VMAP, Jun is an expert in Asian anchor development and the evolution of shipbuilding technology. He presented two enlightening talks on Asian anchors and the 12 / 13th century wrecks in East Asia and Southeast Asia, and joined the dive teams at the stone anchor site.

Saturday is our day off and (ever the archaeology nerds) we visited My Son, the ancient Cham religious site, 60kms from Hoi An. Between the 4th and 14th centuries, this valley was the religious center for Champa kings and ruling dynasties, who constructed temples to worship the Hindu god, Shiva. Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, the temple complex at My Son is widely regarded as being one of the principal historical temple complexes in Southeast Asia, not to mention the paramount heritage site of its kind in Vietnam. Despite being abandoned and engulfed by the forest in the 14th century, then bombed during the American War, the temples that remain have a powerful presence over the landscape.

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To round off the week, Sunday was spent in lectures on some of the theory behind underwater cultural heritage management and museology, presented by Mark and Sally. Clyde presented a case study on the management proposal for the World War II wrecks at Subic Bay, Philippines (giving me another reason to return to that part of the world as soon as possible) and the teams caught up on some admin, sleep and pool time. Rested and refreshed (mostly…) we’re ready for week 3!


Follow the project’s Facebook page daily updates from the field! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Vietnam-Maritime-Archeology-Project/308532315956425?fref=ts

Many thanks to everyone for their photos J

  • Sophie

Sophie Winton, reporter at large, writes from Hoi An, Vietnam

Field Notes: Vietnam Training in Underwater Archaeology
Greetings from Hoi An, Vietnam!

Hoi An riverfront by night 

I am here with a group of over 30 participants from 10 countries who have come together for the Vietnam Training in Underwater Archaeology. This 4 week field school is being hosted by the Institute for Archaeology and is supported and funded by SEAMEO SPAFA and the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE). UNESCO has granted its patronage to the project. 
I am thrilled to be representing ACHA at this field school. 
The team poses for a photo after the Opening Ceremony. Trainers and trainees come from Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Australia, the Netherlands, Hungary and South Africa. 

The 2015 training is the eighth fieldwork training and research season to have been conducted in Vietnam since 2008 by an interdisciplinary, international team of researchers, research associates, students and trainers. These initiatives take place under the auspices of the Vietnam Maritime Archaeology Project Centre (VMAPC). The VMAPC “is dedicated to supporting the Vietnam government and Vietnamese people in building maritime archaeology to investigate, protect and preserve maritime and underwater cultural heritage. VMAPC conducts research, education and training about the importance of Vietnamese maritime and underwater cultural heritage.”
A view of Cu Lau Cham where we have been doing some orientation dives ahead of next week’s survey projects 

We are at the end of the first week, which has mainly revolved around getting to know one another, exploring Hoi An and getting organized for the survey projects that we will be starting next week. Some participants have been completing their PADI Open Water Diver courses while others have been refreshing their diving skills in the waters around Cu Lau Cham. 

Check back next week for another update and follow the project’s Facebook page for more information https://www.facebook.com/pages/Vietnam-Maritime-Archeology-Project/308532315956425?fref=ts 
Special thanks to Ian McCann for all the images!

UNESCO UNITWIN Underwater Archaeology – by Luvuyo Ndzuzo


2nd Workshop on Underwater Archaeology for African Countries (12 – 23 May 2015) in Kemer (Turkey)

Purpose: the purpose of this document is to highlight some of the activities of the 2nd Workshop on Underwater Archaeology as outlined in program. Furthermore the document seeks to show the interventions that UNESCO hopes to make in relation to Underwater Archaeology.

Background: part of the build up to the 50th meeting on Underwater Archaeology in Paris at UNESCO South Africa joined in the number of member states that signed the Convention on Underwater Cultural Heritage of 2001. South Africa is one of the countries that have a long history of ship wrecks and have less Underwater Archaeology studies in the recent past fits the requirement UNESCO’s areas of intervention. With a coast line of about 2300 kilometers and more than a hundred ship wrecks around the Cape of storms. In the same vein there are very few underwater Archaeologists in the mandated institution of the Heritage regulator namely; South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA). The workshop was offered as a platform for capacity building for African countries.

Host: Selcuk University, Turkey supported by the central government through the Department of Culture and Tourism, the Turkey UNESCO National council and various partners. The hosting professor Dr. Hakan Oniz spearheaded all the logistical issues together with his team based in the new center in Kemer.

UNESCO: represented by the head of the secretariat of the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage Dr. Ulrike Guerin, editor of the Manual for Activities directed at Underwater Cultural Heritage. She was supported by the able Arturo Da Silva as organizer and facilitator.

Lecturers and tuition: leading intellectuals in the field of Underwater Archaeology offered lectures based on their work and experience. A variety of topics and areas of study in the field were ably presented. This group of scholars carefully demonstrated the key principles of Underwater Archaeology. This laid the foundation for the work that must be done underwater when diving on wrecks and submerged sites. New forms of examining Underwater Cultural Heritage were also presented and it was emphasized that these do not substitute the traditional forms of examining archaeological sites.

The central issue of the workshop revolved around the “in situ preservation issue. Dr. Ulrike Guerin of UNESCO presented a lecture that paved the way for a better understanding of the in situ principle as articulated by UNESCO. Scholars added to the issue by presenting some of the key issues of the in situ principle debate. Ideas like excavation and intrusive measures of Underwater Archaeology were brought forward.

Diving lessons and practice were organized in the second week where two important ideas were taught. The idea of safety underwater was taught, in the main, by Diving Network specialists who offered lessons on diver first aid procedures and the elimination of bubbles in the blood circulation system. The second part of the diving lessons revolved around making use of Underwater Archaeology techniques. Techniques such as photography, measuring, drawing and cleaning the site were put to practice.

Ceremonies: Organizers hosted a welcome gala dinner for the participants. It was supported by the ministry of Culture and Tourism. Here there was good representation from the national council of UNESCO in Turkey. A certification ceremony was organized at the end of the second week. Here both UNESCO and Selcuk University handed participation certificates to all participants.

Two outings were organized over the two weekends; one was a tour of the ancient city called Clup Phaselis and the other were tours of Antalya Aquarium and Antalya Museum.

Conclusion: the workshop better equipped participants in dealing with issues of Archaeological importance. The logistical arrangements were anchored at the new center in Kemer under the leadership of Dr. Hakan Oniz. It was a diverse and well connecting session of the affected disciplines. This workshop afforded me the grand opportunity of coming into contact with practitioners from the continent and leading scholars in the field. I am thankful RIM and the South African state party for this opportunity.

ACHA in Paris with UNESCO





This week ACHA members are in Paris at the invitation of UNESCO for the 5th meeting of the members of Scientific and Technical Advisory Body (STAB) of the 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage (the Convention). According to Article 4 (paragraph a) of its Statutes, the STAB must meet at least once every year to deliberate on aspects of the implementation of Convention that are important to States that have ratified. At this meeting, the STAB will draft resolutions for promoting public access to underwater cultural heritage sites, developing education and awareness raising programmes and cooperating with UNESCO accredited NGO’s around the world.

Public access to heritage sites is an important component for protection and management. If we want people to engage with their heritage we need them to be able to visit and interact with it. Although its would be easy to open up a heritage site for visitors, sustainable visitor management plans must be drafted and implemented so that tourism doesn’t destroy or damage the sites. The STAB will discuss ways for tourism and heritage to work together so that heritage sites contribute to the economy but are protected for the enjoyment of generations to come.

Responsible public access is closely linked to education and awareness raising programmes. Heritage sites on land are easy visit. Some maritime sites like harbours, or fish traps are also visible, but sites underwater are usually only accessible to divers. This often means that the people who live near the sites have never seen them and don’t know much about them. While laws might protect heritage, it is important that people who live near the sites assist with managing them. ACHA believes that through education and awareness raising, communities living near submerged sites connect underwater cultural heritage and terrestrial heritage to form a more inclusive heritage where sites, stories, traditions and environments make up a maritime cultural landscape that is part of the identity of the people who live in it. If people are connected to their heritage they will help protect it thereby assisting government agencies in their duties. Protecting heritage and sharing stories and histories can also contribute to creating heritage trails and museums that will stimulate tourism and economic development.

UNESCO and the States Parties to the Convention have accredited ten NGO’s worldwide who will work together with the countries who have ratified the Convention to implement training, capacity building and education programmes, awareness raising projects and management initiatives. The NGO’s provide a network of experts who can assist wherever needed. ACHA has two strong connections with the accredited NGO’s. Firstly, we have partnered with CIE – Centre for International Heritage Activities on several projects in Africa including in Mozambique, Tanzania and South Africa. ACHA is also a training provider for the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS), whose courses are taught worldwide.

Although ACHA is not yet accredited with UNESCO, it will support the efforts of CIE at the meeting. ACHA is the only African NGO working in Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage (MUCH) that will be attending the meetings and, as such, will stand for African interests and promote the development of MUCH in Africa.


Underwaterheritage.org joins ACHA

Welcome back to the Underwaterheritage.org Blog. After a long break, we’ve now become part of the new African Centre for Heritage Activities (ACHA), a not-for-profit organisation that has been set up to promote heritage in general, and Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage in particular, in Africa and to develop capacity and infrastructure in the field.

ACHA and its partners are already involved in some exciting projects in South Africa and Mozambique and will use the blog to publish updates on what its up to, discuss various issues and encourage conversations and opinions around heritage and development. There’s also lots of fun stuff to get involved with so keep an eye on the blog, on the ACHA Facebook page and the @ACHAtweets twitter account.

We’re about to start a project in Mozambique so you’ll see some updates on that soon.

Announcement – SAHRA Field School 2012


The South African Heritage Resources Agency will be hosting a Field School in maritime and underwater cultural heritage, better known as underwater archaeology. Together with the Robben Island Museum and Iziko Museums, the Centre for International Heritage Activities and the University of Leiden, the team will be investigating archaeological sites on Robben Island and the “Barrel Wreck” in Table Bay. This is an as-yet unidentified shipwreck which research indicates dates to the mid-nineteenth century.





The course is designed for both divers and non-divers who want to gain experience in Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage. You will gain experience in various archaeological activities such as surveying methods, site reconnaissance, recording, drawing, mapping, position fixing, in-situ conservation, lab processing and artefact conservation. You will also attend lectures presented by internationally recognized specialists in heritage management, maritime archaeology, and conservation. Through archaeological investigation and archival research, you will learn about the history and culture of the colonial Cape and assist SAHRA and Robben Island in the management of some of South Africa’s unique heritage resources.

The Field School runs from January 16 – February 10 2012 and the team will be based on Robben Island. Accommodation and catering are provided at no cost to you. The Field School is split into modules to accommodate those of you who can’t be there for the duration.

For more information or to apply, please contact Sophie – swinton@wc.sahra.org.za

Bed Time Reading – Part II

As Europe struggled out of the feudal system that followed the sacking of Rome by the barbarians in  400 AD and into the renaissance, it looked east to satiate its re-awoken taste for exotic goods. But Europe had little direct access with India, China, Japan and the Spice Islands. Instead, traders in the Middle East controlled trade between East and West. In an effort to circumvent the Middle East and gain access to cheaper goods, European nations began searching for other safe, fast and cheap ways to acquire those trade items for which demand was growing. Attempts to gain control of the dangerous terrestrial trade routes had failed and so people looked to the sea and Europe entered its Age of Exploration. Ships were dispatched both east and west of Europe in an effort to reach the rich Spice Islands, porcelain markets, textile factories and other goods which European markets craved.

In the context of South Africa’s history, it is the voyages around the African continent that most influenced change. The exploratory voyages of Bartholomew Diaz  in 1489 and Vasco Da Gama in 1499, opened the way for a flood of seaborne trade that had profound consequences for South Africa, the African continent and the world in general. Diaz was the first European to round the southern tip of Africa in Portugals’ attempts discover an all sea route to the East. Evidence seems to suggest that he got as far as Mossel Bay before returning home. Da Gama followed soon after and continued across the India Ocean to the East in 1499. Portugal’s pioneering explorers gave her the edge in the race for eastern markets and she quickly became a major power in Europe. But others followed quickly as the rest of Europe realised the potential of direct trade with the East.

Bed Time Reading – Part I


Over the past 500 years, the South African coast has seen the drama of shipwreck played out again and again. Rugged coastlines have swallowed up vessels straying too close to the shore and poor weather conditions have claimed ships even in the best condition. It is no co-incidence that the coast around the southern tip of Africa was known as the Cape of Storms. Continue reading

What is Underwater Heritage about?

The first response to me saying “I’m an underwater archaeologists” is usually: “Wow, that’s such a cool job!” Being socially inept, this statement is usually followed by an awkward silence while I struggle to think of something to say to keep the conversation going. Continue reading