Lebanon chairs the Convention on Underwater Cultural Heritage
Khalil Karam and Alain Decaux during their meeting on the 150th anniversary of the Mission Phoenicia.
The Lebanese coast, despite its small size, is extremely rich in shipwrecks and underwater archaeological remains, ranging over a very long period from the Phoenician era to the twentieth century. A particularly rich heritage, in shipwrecks wrecked in the nineteenth century and during the two world wars. This is the result of several research projects carried out by the famous British archaeologist Helen Frost (1917-2010) offshore Lebanon. This is also the reason why this country has been elected on 28 May at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, as President of the Fourth Conference of States-Parties to the Convention on the Protection of subaquatic Cultural Heritage .
Lebanon chairs the conference until May 2015 with, as Vice-Presidents, France, Mexico, Iran and Nigeria.
Asked about what this election mean, Khalil Karam, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Lebanon to UNESCO, tells L’Orient-Le Jour that “Lebanon shall preside at all meetings related to the Convention until 2015.” This will help to highlight the rich subaquatic heritage in Lebanon, as indeed does the Helen Frost Foundation, which continues the work of its founder in the Levant, especially in Lebanon.
Underwater cultural heritage is topical in 2014. Indeed, this year marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. Number of shipwrecks in the area also dated from this period. “Belgium has proposed to celebrate this centenary, says Karam. But this anniversary is particularly interested countries in the region, such as Turkey, which has countless shipwrecks that sank, especially during the Battle of the Dardanelles, also known as the Battle of Gallipoli. Lebanon is also concerned because of the large number of shipwrecks dating from the First World War along its coast. “
The ambassador noted that “under international law, wrecks become surveyed hundred years after the sinking of the ship.”
The year 2014 also marks the 150th anniversary of the Mission Phoenicia, sent to Lebanon by Napoleon III and led by Ernest Renan. In this regard, a meeting was held recently between Mr. Karam and writer Alain Decaux, former Minister for “La Francophonie”, on the many events that will mark this anniversary in France, but also in Lebanon. “Following this mission, Ernest Renan wrote a huge report, who is one of the largest archaeological works in Lebanon, says Karam. He then lived in Lebanon, including Byblos, Amchit, and Ghazir. Events are planned at these locations to mark the anniversary. “
Note that one of the wrecks of the nineteenth century the best preserved in the world is that of the British ship HMS Victoria, which sank off Tripoli after colliding with another ship in the British fleet, the HMS Camperdown in 1893 .
() The Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage aims to protect the legacy constituted by all traces of human existence that lie or were lying under water, and have a cultural or historical character.