A Place to Learn: the Underwater Cultural Heritage in American Samoa

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A Place to Learn: the Underwater Cultural Heritage in American Samoa


Session 8
Pacific Islands region: Building UCH Capacity


The five inhabited islands (Tutuila, Aunu’u, Ofu, Olosega, and Ta’u) and two distant coral atolls (Swains Atoll and Rose Atoll) of American Samoa have a diverse maritime past. Consequently, maritime heritage properties reflect different aspects of history in Samoa, such as historic shipwrecks, World War II naval aircraft, fortifications and coastal pillboxes, and archaeological sites associated with the ancient past. Importantly, specific coastal and marine locations, geological features usually categorized as “natural,” clearly have cultural significance in Samoa, being familiar “landmarks” of legend and myth, critical to maintaining cultural identity. This is challenging to the familiar management emphasis solely on historic properties.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) seeks to discover, assess, and protect significant maritime heritage resources throughout its 14 sites, and assist partner programs and agencies in the general preservation of the underwater cultural heritage (UCH). NOAA has completed a document-based inventory for American Samoa and will propose field surveys for specific locations in the future as part of its overall effort to better understand and preserve special resources. The Sanctuary System’s Maritime Heritage Program supports work in the Pacific, and has the ability to offer Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) courses in maritime archaeology surveying techniques. Encouraging collaborative training opportunities, and better understanding the diversity of the UCH in the Pacific region, are two important ways to increase capacity in this field.


Dr. Hans Van Tilburg


The Inaugural Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Underwater Cultural Heritage

Electronic Publication by The Museum of Underwater Archaeology


November 2011



Dr. Hans Van Tilburg, “A Place to Learn: the Underwater Cultural Heritage in American Samoa ,” The MUA Collection, accessed November 14, 2018, http://www.themua.org/collections/items/show/603.

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