Underwater Archaeology

In Mauritius, underwater archaeology is too often mistaken with treasure hunting and systematic looting of historical artefacts for the sole purpose of commercial trade. On the contrary, the real and unique archaeology is the scientific and meticulous research that is undertaken on ancient civilisations and human societies, notably by analysing excavated relics of the past. However, in most cases, archaeological campaigns require considerable financial funding in order to achieve successful completion. This is why sponsoring has become absolutely necessary for this activity, which, in spite of itself, then needs to be regarded as a true economic operation. 

All requests pertaining to shipwreck excavations in Mauritius are studied by relevant governmental bodies (Ministry of Culture, Education, Foreign Affairs, Information, Natural Resources, Finance and Economy) as well as other institutions (Museums, Universities, Archives, Army, Police, Customs and Port Authorities). This Committee draws up an operating contract which will be signed both by the operators and the Ministry of Arts and Culture. The clauses stipulated in the contract will decide what will happen to the excavated artefacts. The terms of this contract were first established in 1979 for a campaign led by Jacques Dumas on the Dutch shipwreck Banda. 

The contribution of underwater archaeologists to our knowledge of the past is considerable and multifaceted. Each shipwreck is like a "portion of time" which, when studied scientifically, delivers a picture of life at a specific date in the past.  In general, a comparative study on an increasing mass of information from shipwrecks throws new light on ancient techniques and commercial practices as well as on human migrations and societies.