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In Korpo, the scope and quality of the wreckage site of the Vidskär wreck were mapped. A bronze jug, dated to the Late Middle Ages, was raised from the vicinity of the wreck. Photo by: Stefan Wessman, The National Board of Antiquities

Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage

The Antiquities Act protects underwater sites the same way it protects ancient sites on land. Underwater man-made structures, such as fairway obstructions or the remains of bridges or quays, for example, are protected as reminders of Finland's past settlements and history. Regardless of their age, all sites are protected and one must not touch them without permission from the National Board of Antiquities (NBA).

Old shipwrecks are protected by their age. The wrecks of ships and other vessels discovered in the sea or in inland waters that can be considered to have sunk over one hundred years ago, or parts thereof, are seen as ancient sites. A find of this kind must be reported to the National Board of Antiquities without delay. If it is obvious that the owner has abandoned the wreck or a part of it the wreck belongs to the state. Also the artefacts in or from a wreck of this kind belong to the state.

There are also objects of cultural heritage, discovered on beach and water areas, which are not considered objects as indicated in section 2 of the Antiquities Act and which cannot be protected under the Antiquities Act. The safeguarding of such objects of cultural heritage (e.g. remnants of timber rafting equipment and wreckages that have sunk under 100 years ago) can also be justified due to their historical significance and the values of cultural heritage. These objects can be protected by, for example, planning regulations.

Based on the legislation, the National Board of Antiquities is responsible for the protection of underwater cultural heritage. The Board cooperates with the environmental officials, the Finnish Navy, Metsähallitus and the Finnish Transport Agency, among others. Exchanging information and experiences with foreign officials of cultural heritage is also important in terms of the protection activities.

In sea areas, wreck sites are protected by the Gulf of Finland Coast Guard and the West Finland Coast Guard. The National Board of Antiquities is in active contact with the coast guards, who are notified about research permits granted, and the field work carried out by the National Board of Antiquities itself.

The most important means of protection include educating amateur divers and cooperating with them. The National Board of Antiquities cooperates with numerous divers when it comes to checking the locations of the objects, documenting them and exchanging information.
Laiturin hirsiarina Helsingin edustalla
The timber dock grating, off Helsinki, is a typical remnant discovered in the archipelago. Similar stone-filled cribs are still built. Photo by: Maija Huttunen

The Antiquities Act


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Last updated 29.10.2015
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