Saturday, September 08, 2007

Antiquities market update Cultural heritage: Whose deep sea treasure is it really?
The United Nations 2001 convention on protecting underwater cultural heritage was right to oppose the plundering of sunken archaeological treasures for profit. Unfortunately, only 15 countries have ratified the agreement, and the plundering has begun.

In what may become the biggest underwater find ever, Odyssey Marine Explorations, a commercial operation from Tampa, Florida, has reportedly hauled 17 tons of gold and silver from a ship widely believed to be the Spanish galleon Nuestra SeƱora de las Mercedes that was sunk by a British warship off the coast of Portugal in October 1804.

The company claims ownership of its find. And, of course, Spain is hiring lawyers and preparing its legal claim to the trove, claiming a sovereign nation's right over its cultural heritage.

Yet another twist! Peru is also staking a claim because the ship contains stuff taken from their country. That is noted as kind of dubious because Peru ddn't exist as a country at the time. Still, it makes it rather analogous to other claims of antiquities.