A lot of humankind’s cultural heritage lies underwater: seas and inland waters conceal numerous relics from our past, such as submerged cultural landscapes, settlements, sanctuaries, docks and shipwrecks. These legacies bequeathed by past generations are of high cultural value. They bear witness to our history over millennia and are often very well preserved. The UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage sets binding rules under international law on the treatment of underwater cultural heritage and contributes to the prevention of the significant worldwide rise in pillaging and commercial exploitation of this cultural heritage. 60 states have joined the convention to date, Switzerland ratified it in 2020.
Swiss lakes, rivers and marshlands hide a rich cultural heritage from every period in human history. The best known are the pile dwelling settlements, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Prehistoric Pile Dwellings around the Alps” since 2011.By ratifying the convention, Switzerland has committed to treat this heritage responsibly, penalise the destruction or pillaging thereof and to combat the illegal trade in items of underwater cultural heritage. The underwater cultural heritage may neither be destroyed nor severely damaged by ships sailing the oceans under the Swiss flag. Discoveries and planned activities must be reported to the authorities.
The Federal Office of Culture (FOC) ensures that Switzerland observes its obligations under the convention.