Establishing a Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit in Tanzania

Dublin Core


Establishing a Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit in Tanzania


Session 6
Empowerment and relevance in maritime and underwater cultural heritage programs in developing countries


Tanzania has a coastline of about 1,424 kilometres (km) with many famous ancient coastal towns such as Zanzibar, Kilwa, Mafia and Bagamoyo. The town’s host many underwater cultural heritage (UCH) sites which are not yet documented. About 40 shipwrecks have been documented but most have not been surveyed.

Tanzania Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage Programme (TMUCHP), which started in 2009, aims at empowering a number of Tanzanian stakeholders and staff to establish the Tanzanian Maritime Cultural Heritage (MUCH) Unit with skills and resources to record, document and monitor UCH sites. The various stakeholders come from different government departments and Dar es Salaam University in the United Republic of Tanzania which includes the Tanzania mainland and Zanzibar.

The Centre for International Heritage Activities (CIE) through United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and Government of the Royal Kingdom of Netherlands has been implementing various activities in the TMUCHP. The programme has achieved the survey of the Great Northern shipwreck in Zanzibar, and a preliminary survey at the World Heritage Site of Kilwa Kisiwani. The programme has included training sessions aimed at raising awareness amongst the Tanzanian community about the importance of implementing a MUCH programme and to enhance this discipline with various stakeholders. It has also imparted knowledge and skills on diving and working on archaeological sites.

The programme contains other achievements including, stimulating the Government of Republic of Tanzania to start the process to ratify the UNESCO 2001 Convention for Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage (2001 Convention); signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the government stakeholders and CIE; the establishment of a database as an ongoing process; and attending Regional workshops and training in various countries.

The establishment of a MUCH programme faces many challenges; shortage of funds for strengthening an understanding of maritime archaeology and conducting more surveys. Capacity building amongst team members by visiting other countries with successful maritime archaeology practices is also sought after. Lack of diving and survey equipment is also limiting further work. While the program has had some successes, Tanzania’s many maritime and UCH sites are not yet uncovered; I will expand on what we see as the way forward in this paper.


Humphrey Mahudi


November 2011



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