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Sri Lanka project

VOC fort Jaffna (photo: இராசு மோகன்ராஜ்).

VOC fort Jaffna (photo: இராசு மோகன்ராஜ்).

Sri Lanka and the Netherlands share a cultural heritage, so Sri Lanka is one of the ten countries in the SCH project. The two countries first established relations in the period 1658-1796, when the Netherlands held power in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) via the Dutch East India Company. Many Dutch forts, churches, houses, shipwrecks and remains of canal systems from that period still exist. A project was done to further develop our knowledge and management of this heritage, in collaboration with partners in Sri Lanka.

The project was initiated by the Maritime Archaeology Unit and the Central Cultural Fund, and was carried out with the support of the Maritime Programme. Launched in December 2013, it ran until December 2014. One aspect of the project was the cataloguing of Dutch shipwrecks in northeast Sri Lanka, where for thirty years no research could be performed because of the civil war between the Tamil minority and the Sinhalese majority. The first investigation was performed on the east coast in 2012, in an area where fishermen and local divers knew of shipwrecks. Around 20 shipwrecks were identified then. 

The project includes archive research in the Netherlands and Sri Lanka, which provides a basis for the investigation of shipwrecks in the Jaffna area that may be related to the Dutch East India Company period. Another important element of the project was the establishment of a national GIS database, for which the Maritime Programme provided input.

Linn Borghuis