Preservation and Management of Underwater Archaeological Resources: Role of Agency

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Preservation and Management of Underwater Archaeological Resources: Role of Agency


Underwater archaeological resources within the Republic of Palau (henceforth referred to as the Republic) cover a wide array of types from famous World War II wrecks, to Yapese stone money disks which sank to the bottom of the sea during their transport, and to traditional sites - which includes but not limited to semi-submerged docks/piers, fish traps, burials, and a sunken city mentioned in traditional folklore. These resources are protected under the Cultural and Historical Preservation Act (henceforth referred to as Title 19) mandated by the Palau Bureau of Arts and Culture (henceforth referred to as the Bureau). More specifically, Chapter 3 of Title 19 known as the "Palau Lagoon Monument" is exclusively reserved for all submerged and semi-submerged foreign vessels located within the Republic’s territorial waters. Tour agencies play a proactive role in monitoring the health and condition of the wrecks, report new site locations, and notifies the Bureau of possible looting activities. A Geographic Information System database maintained by the Survey and Inventory/Archaeology Section within the Bureau keeps an inventory of underwater sites obtained from earlier works plus data from affiliated tour agencies. This paper will examine the current situation within the Bureau and its subdivisions particularly the Survey and Inventory/Archaeology Section. It will provide details of efforts, challenges and goals, and gaps pertaining to the preservation and management of underwater archaeological resources. In addition, present case studies where the "Palau Lagoon Monument" clause was enacted. Lastly, we will discuss the measures and other aides available within the Bureau aimed towards assisting the state government establish medium-term goals for preservation and management plus effective long-term objectives beneficial for their state in terms of underwater cultural resources. In addition, give an overview of the latest UCH training, sponsored by UNESCO, which was held in Palau and plans moving forward to increasing the advocacy of UCH in the Pacific Region, particularly Micronesia.


Sunny O. Ngirmang
Calvin T. Emesiochel, in Van Tilburg, H., Tripati, S., Walker Vadillo, V., Fahy, B., and Kimura, J. (eds.)





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