Underwater Archaeology in México: From the Bottom of the Sea to the Crater of a Volcano
Over thirty years, underwater archaeology division at Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) has gone through diverse stages and fulfilled assorted projects in marine waters, in cenotes (sinkholes) and inundates caves, at the lagoons in the crater of a volcano, and in a beach in Baja California searching for the remains of a Manila Galleon cargo. Amazing discoveries include bones of extinct animals, skeletons and ashes dating from more than ten thousand years ago, hundreds of pre-Hispanic Maya skulls, and shipwrecks ranging from the 16th to the 21st centuries. Since the beginning national and international collaboration has been the key. Being part of the group of experts who worked for the elaboration of the text of the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage paved the way for Mexico being one of the first State Parties in ratifying this Convention; this also led to become one of the initial group that integrated the Scientific and Technical Advisory Body (STAB). Instruments like the Convention and the ICOMOS International Charter on the Protection and Management of Underwater Cultural Heritage are crucial in helping to win the battle against the permanent pressure of treasure hunter groups in countries like Mexico, which has a leading role as pioneer in the protection of the underwater cultural heritage and the development of underwater archaeology in Latin America. Together with UNESCO, INAH Mexico organized in 2010 the course “Research and Management in Underwater and Maritime Archaeology”, in which 27 specialists from 14 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean participated. The future looks promising for this region.