Society for Historical Archaeology meets in Toronto for 2009 Annual Conference

    TORONTO, Jan. 6 /CNW/ -

    Dates:       Wednesday, January 7, 2009
                 6 p.m. - opening ceremony
                 Thursday, January 8 through Saturday, January 10, 2009
                 8:30 a.m to 5 p.m. - symposia, book room, tours
    Location:    Fairmont Royal York Hotel 100 Front Street West, Toronto
    Details:     Media are advised to check in at the conference registration
                 desk. Interviews can be arranged on request.
    Contact:     Dena Doroszenko
                 Ontario Heritage Trust
                 Telephone: 416-325-5038 or 416-565-3845 (cell)

    From January 7-10, 2009, over 1,000 archaeologists belonging to the
Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) will gather for the 42nd Annual
Conference on Historical and Underwater Archaeology at the Fairmont Royal York
Hotel in Toronto.
    The conference will consider more than 500 papers on research that is
being conducted in North America and around the world. Included will be an
opportunity to celebrate the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the
Underwater Cultural Heritage, which takes effect in January 2009 and
establishes an international standard on the treatment of shipwrecks. At the
conference, maritime archaeologists will present the stories of ships and
shipwrecks ranging from the ancient Mediterranean to the Mongols in Vietnam,
and from the famous Swedish Vasa sunk in 1628 to Second World War vessels.
    The SHA is the largest scholarly group concerned with the archaeology of
the modern world (AD 1400-present). Formed in 1967, the SHA promotes scholarly
research and the dissemination of knowledge concerning historical archaeology.
The society focuses on the identification, excavation, interpretation and
conservation of sites and materials on land and underwater.
    This year's SHA conference is hosted by the Ontario Heritage Trust, an
agency of the Government of Ontario dedicated to identifying, preserving,
protecting and promoting Ontario's heritage.

    Learn More:

    See the backgrounder on the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of
Underwater Cultural Heritage

    Find more information at:
    -   Ontario Heritage Trust -
    -   Society for Historical Archaeology -
    -   Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology -
    -   UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage -

                         Aussi disponible en français


                     UNESCO Convention on the Protection
                     of the Underwater Cultural Heritage

    On January 2, 2009, the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the
Underwater Cultural Heritage (2001) will go into effect after being ratified
by 20 nations, becoming the de facto international standard on the treatment
of the more than three million known and undiscovered shipwrecks spread over
ocean floors, as well as countless inundated buildings and communities. The
Convention establishes basic principles for protecting underwater cultural
heritage, provides for international cooperation and offers practical
guidelines for research and management. In introducing the Convention, UNESCO
emphasizes that "looting of underwater cultural heritage and the destruction
of its context are increasing rapidly and threaten to deprive humanity of this
heritage. The waves have protected shipwrecks and ruins for centuries, but
improvements in diving technology have made them more accessible and therefore
increasingly vulnerable."
    The Convention is founded on the principle that the world's nations must
preserve underwater cultural heritage for the benefit of humanity, and respect
the human remains often present in these submerged gravesites. Preservation on
the seabed and non-intrusive survey and sampling are preferred to full
excavation and recovery because the sites remain in their historical context
and because of the better preservation conditions that water provides.
Further, the Convention states that underwater cultural heritage is not to be
commercially exploited for trade, nor are collections to be irretrievably
dispersed. Signatory nations accept shared responsibility for providing
training, raising public awareness, managing underwater heritage, and for
collaborating to study and present finds. Finally, ratifying nations agree to
adopt domestic legislation to ensure that its nationals and vessels comply
with the tenets of the Convention. The Convention is entering into force now
that 20 nations have ratified it, including Panama (the first) and Barbados
(the 20th). Three-quarters of the signatories are from Europe, Latin America
and the Caribbean. No North American countries have ratified to date.
    Since 1999, the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) has monitored
developments and promoted international communication within the maritime
archaeology community in support of the UNESCO Convention. The society has
secured endorsements from international professional and heritage
organizations and government agencies in the United States, Australia, and the
Caribbean. In these endorsements, practitioners in states not yet signatories
to the convention commit to adopting the tenets and best practices outlined in
the convention and annex.
    The Convention's entry into force was applauded in a recent public
statement by the SHA and Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology (ACUA),
along with 11 other international archaeological organizations: the
Archaeology Division of the American Anthropological Association, American
Cultural Resources Association, Australasian Institute for Maritime
Archaeology, Canadian Archaeological Association, Council for British
Archaeology, European Association of Archaeologists, International Union of
Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences, Register of Professional
Archaeologists, Society of African Archaeologists, Society for American
Archaeology and World Archaeological Congress. Together, these organizations
represent thousands of archaeologists and heritage professionals from around
the world who hail the Convention as a significant step by the international
community to protect underwater cultural heritage from the depredations of
commercial treasure salvage.

                         Aussi disponible en français

For further information:

For further information: Dena Doroszenko, Archaeologist, Ontario
Heritage Trust, Telephone: (416) 325-5038 or (416) 565-3845 (cell), E-mail:

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