Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage in South Africa: The Development of Relevant Management Strategies in the Historical Maritime Context of the Southern Tip of Africa

Jonathan Sharfman, Jaco Boshoff, Robert Parthesius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


South Africans have a long association with water. It has provided a source of food, a medium for trade and a catalyst for migration and development. The country's geographical position as a crossroads of maritime trade between Europe and the East means that its history is inextricably linked to the history of the rest of the world. The result is a multi-faceted representation of sites, objects and mythologies related to water and maritime heritage that reflect not only local historical and social development, but global cultural change as well. Given the importance of South Africa's underwater cultural heritage (UCH), managers have grappled with management principles, ethics and theoretical models in an effort to produce and enforce heritage legislation that is relevant and effective. This paper outlines South Africa's maritime context from 1. 5 million years ago until the present, summarises legislative and mitigation developments over the past half century and provides details of current trends in maritime archaeology and UCH management at the southern tip of Africa. Training programmes and public awareness are keys to this strategy to bring UCH and maritime archaeology into the mainstream and counter treasure hunting and looting of this rich, friable resource.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-109
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Maritime Archaeology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 1 2012



  • Heritage legislation
  • Heritage management
  • Maritime history
  • Treasure hunting
  • Underwater Cultural Heritage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology

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