Report Sri Lanka


The Maritime Archaeology in Sri Lanka after the Tsunami Sri Lanka is strategically located between Arabia and East Asia, at a natural crossroads of navigational routes, and has been a centre of trade and cultural exchange since ancient times. Sri Lanka's seafaring history, and the archaeological riches of her land sites, suggest that her underwater sites should prove comparably fascinating.
The Maritime Archaeology Unit and conservation laboratory were formed in 2000 under the Mutual Heritage Centre, managed by the Central Cultural Fund in cooperation with the Amsterdam Historical Museum, the University of Amsterdam, & the Western Australian Museum (departments of Maritime Archaeology & Materials Conservation), and sponsored by the Netherlands Cultural Fund. The East Indiaman Avondster in Galle harbour has been excavated recently, the first major project of the Maritime Archaeology Unit of Sri Lanka.
The Avondster was originally an English ship, captured and modified by the Dutch, relegated after a long career to shorthaul coastal voyages, and wrecked in 1659 while at anchor in Galle harbour. The premises of the Maritime Archaeology Unit in Galle were destroyed in the tsunami of 26 Dec, and most of the collections and equipment are lost.
Being a weekend, only one security guard was present. We are relieved to report that he survived - he was swept away but managed to catch hold of a tree. Local and international members of the team are communicating on the best ways to assist with the humanitarian disaster and rebuilding.
At the Workshop on the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection Of Underwater Cultural Heritage held in Hong Kong 18-20 November 2003, it was decided that the MAU would form the basis of the establishment of an UNESCO regional training field school in underwater archaeological site conservation and management at the Maritime Archaeology Research Centre.
After an intensive training since 1998 in maritime archaeological techniques and conservation, the staff of the MAU had prepared a programme for the survey and management of the other maritime heritage sites in and around the Bay of Galle. They were very much looking forwards to commence this programme after the Christmas break.
Despite the unfathomable humanitarian disaster that is taking place around them and the loss of their facilities, the spirit of this group of young professionals is unbroken. We hope that, after the human relief issues have been resolved, we can help them to re-establish their career and to safeguard the future of maritime archaeology in the region.
Our first attention will stay with the support of the professional aid organisations, however it would be very much appreciated if you can express your commitment to this group of young maritime archaeologists and conservators.
We hope to approach you in a later stage to discuss your possible contribution to help restoring the infrastructure of the MAU: please make your commitment known through avondster@xs4all.nl.
For further information you can visit our website www.hum.uva.nl/galle.
Robert Parthesius Director Avondster Project Amsterdams Historisch Museum University of Amsterdam PO box 3302 1001 AC Amsterdam Tel. +31 (0)20 5231807 Fax. +31 (0)20 6207789
Photo's and updates at websites (temporarely) also at: http:/miranda.vos.net/ The MAU before and after the disaster of 26 December 2004



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