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Capacity building

Here at the Maritime Programme of the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands we believe it is important to help train young archaeologists, who are essential for the future management of the maritime and underwater cultural heritage. After all, it gives us the opportunity to create knowledge and support at an early stage among young people who are the municipal, commercial and academic archaeologists of tomorrow.

For some years now several higher education institutions in the Netherlands have been offering lessons and modules on maritime and/or underwater archaeology, often as part of a broader archaeological degree. Unlike in other countries, however, students cannot yet take a full Master’s degree in the subject here. Things are even more difficult when it comes to underwater archaeology. Students who want to study this have to go abroad, for example to the University of Esbjerg in Southern Denmark, or the University of Southampton. The fact that there is no fully-fledged degree course for maritime and underwater archaeology in the Netherlands, combined with the very rigorous training requirements that professional divers – and therefore also archaeologists – must comply with in order to work here, means there is little prospect of the ranks of underwater archaeologists swelling any time soon. This problem is universally acknowledged among archaeologists, but we currently have no solution. All in all, however, students do have a number of opportunities to work on maritime and underwater archaeology.

Staff of the Maritime Programme regularly give lectures at universities, as part of the Bachelor’s and Master’s courses on maritime archaeology at the University of Groningen, the University of Amsterdam, Utrecht University and Leiden University. Since these courses form part of other degree programmes a large number of students are able to encounter aspects of maritime and underwater archaeology and heritage management. The Programme is particularly closely involved in the degree programme offered by HE college Saxion Hogeschool in Deventer where, besides giving guest lectures, staff also provide a series of lectures on ‘underwater sediments’ (since 2008). They do the same at Leiden University, which since 2010 has offered an international Master’s degree in ‘Maritime Archaeology’.

Besides these degree programmes, students are also given the opportunity to do an internship. We mediate between students and organisations both in the Netherlands and abroad, and also offer internships with the Maritime Programme itself. Dozens of students have already taken this opportunity. Interns either work here at the RCE or are based at another location. For several years, interns were able to take part in an actual ship excavation with the International Field School for Maritime Archaeology Flevoland (IFMAF), a partnership between Flevoland provincial authority, the University of Groningen and the RCE, with financial support from the Maritime Programme. IFMAF was under the leadership of Professor André van Holk of the University of Groningen, and was one of the few opportunities available in the Netherlands to gain practical experience of excavating shipwrecks. IFMAF excavations were all performed on wrecks that are now on dry land. Unfortunately, in 2016 the last IFMAF excavation took place.

Since 2012 there has also been an underwater field school, organised by the Maritime Programme, which takes place either during or following scheduled investigations. In 2012 students from the Netherlands and Belgium were able to join archaeologists performing a value assessment of the wreck of a clinker-built vessel near Stavoren. In 2013 the field school was held in the river Maas near Cuijk, where the remains of a Roman quayside have been found. In 2014 it took place at the Oostvoornse meer.

Martijn Manders & Robert de Hoop

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