A new era for marine archaeology

Michael Lewis, Head of Portable Antiquities & Treasure, the British Museum


25 July 2016

We had the pleasure of hosting the launch of the Marine Antiquities Scheme at the British Museum in July 2016, with an opening address by Dr Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum. We hope that this exciting new initiative will mark a new era for publicly driven data sharing in the marine environment, based on the success of the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

The Marine Antiquities Scheme provides an easy way for people to report underwater finds. It is modelled on the Portable Antiquities Scheme, run by the British Museum, which encourages people to report archaeological discoveries on land. These items are recorded on a database that can be accessed by the public and researchers alike.

Divers, fishermen, boat operators and the general public go to places that archaeologists might never reach”

Michael Lewis, Head of Portable Antiquities and Treasure, the British Museum

Since 1997, over 1 million objects have been recorded through the Portable Antiquities Scheme – from prehistoric flints to 20th century toy soldiers. Many of those discoveries might otherwise never have been recorded and a great deal of knowledge would have been lost.

The scheme has been an astonishing success for British archaeology, on a scale not imagined when launched. However, there has been nothing like it for the marine environment – until now.

It is a cause for celebration that a voluntary reporting scheme for archaeological discoveries is now in place for the marine environment. We hope that the Marine Antiquities Scheme further increases participation in archaeology, changing understanding of history. Divers, fishermen, boat operators and the general public go to places that archaeologists might never reach, and we look forward to the insights that we can gain.

Thanks to The Crown Estate, Wessex Archaeology, the British Sub-Aqua Club, National Maritime Museum, Marine Management Organisation, Historic England, Nautical Archaeology Society and Receiver of Wreck for getting the Marine Antiquities Scheme off the ground. We are delighted to support this truly excellent initiative.

Further information

Marine Antiquities Scheme

Offshore Renewables Protocol

Marine Aggregates Protocol

Marine Finds - Marine Antiquities Scheme website

Portable Antiquities Scheme