Murky waters for government policy: the case of a 17th century British warship and 10 tonnes of gold coins
In September 2002, the United Kingdom government entered into a 'partnering agreement' with an American marine exploration company for the recovery of gold from the historic British warship, HMS Sussex. The agreement deeply disturbed the archaeological world, not least because it appeared to fly in the face of principles enshrined in the recently adopted UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage (2001). This article considers the nature of the agreement and reflects upon its significance in light of the new Convention. It concludes that it is a duty incumbent on any government to act in the best public interest and in this exceptional case the public interest may well be best served by exploiting the potentially vast commercial value of the wreck.
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