Archaeology Politics Underwater

The Crown Estate renews £60K funding pledge to support seabed heritage

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An archaeological reporting scheme which helps the marine aggregate industry report historical finds from the seabed will benefit from a renewed funding deal between The Crown Estate and the British Marine Aggregate Producers Association (BMAPA).

The Marine Aggregate Archaeological Reporting Protocol, set up by the BMAPA and English Heritage in 2005 and operated by Wessex Archaeology, will receive £60,000 from The Crown Estate over the next three years as part of the organisation’s Marine Stewardship Fund, which has provided funding to support the scheme since 2009.

Under the reporting protocol, employees across the marine aggregate industry are able to help protect the UK’s submerged heritage by reporting finds to Wessex Archaeology which then consults a range of internal and external experts who ensure items are correctly identified and recognised for their historical value. Where the finds are considered to be significant, such as military remains, additional management measures can be introduced by industry operators to ensure that sensitive sites are able to be protected.

The protocol was developed in in 2003 for BMAPA after a guidance note produced in partnership with English Heritage identified a need in identifying and understanding finds of archaeological importance external to the environmental assessment process when operating dredging areas. The guidance note highlighted that knowledge of an aggregate area’s historical significance could be enhanced by an understanding of any artefacts and archaeological deposits within and beneath the seabed. The archaeological protocol was developed to ensure that any finds of potential archaeological importance discovered during all the UK marine aggregate industry’s operations could be reported to heritage experts so their significance could be assessed. This is a model that has since been adopted by other marine sectors such as the offshore renewables developers through The Crown Estate Offshore Renewables Protocol for Archaeological Discoveries scheme.


Since the launch of the protocol this knowledge has improved with many interesting finds reported, most recently this has included a Single Sheave Snatch Block formally used to move cargo on and off ships as well as a variety of cannon balls and cutlery issued to the army during World War II. Over the seven years in which the protocol has been operating, over 880 individual finds have been reported by industry staff. Some of these relate to archaeologically significant items such as Palaeolithic hand axes from off Great Yarmouth and aircraft crash site material.

In addition to the reporting system, the scheme also includes an awareness programme which involves Wessex Archaeology visits to wharves and vessels in Britain and on the continent to raise awareness of archaeology and the protocol among industry staff.

Fiona Wynne, Stewardship Manager at The Crown Estate, said:

“The protocol highlights the responsible approach being taken by the British marine aggregate industry to minimise its impact on the historic marine environment. We are pleased to have been able to continue our support for this worthwhile project, which will not only enable us to support our tenants in their activities but also help us understand more about the seabed we manage and the heritage it contains.”

Mark Russell, Director of the British Marine Aggregate Producers Association, said:

“Staff working in the industry at wharves or on board dredgers can encounter archaeological finds during their day to day work, so the existence of this single protocol is critical to ensuring any items of potential interest are reported consistently. This in turn allows their significance to be assessed by heritage experts. We are delighted with The Crown Estate’s continued funding, without which it would not be possible to continue running the protocol.”

Euan McNeill, Director, Coastal and Marine at Wessex Archaeology said :

“The on-going use of the protocol has greatly enhanced our knowledge of the archaeology in the areas where dredging is active and has led to some finds of international importance, such as the Palaeolithic artefacts from off the east coast and raised awareness of important material such as that from aircraft crash sites from World War II. We are delighted to have the continuing support of the Marine Stewardship Fund in enabling this important work to continue.”

Contributing Source : The Crown Estate

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