Going out to sea, diving, nautical activities… There are many opportunities to discover maritime cultural assets. To ensure their census and conservation, these discoveries must be declared within 48 hours to the Department of Underwater Archaeological Research (DRASSM).

Presentation of the device

What is the discovery of a maritime cultural property?

The Department of Underwater and Underwater Archaeological Research (DRASSM) is responsible for the issuance of prospecting and sounding authorizations, the investigation of programmed excavation requests and the control of archaeological operations in the public maritime domain. He is the guarantor of the preservation of these goods and the privileged interlocutor in case of incidental discovery of a maritime cultural property.

The DRASSM operates on more than 10,000 km of coastline, including 5,533 km for the metropolis, and its area of operation extends straight from the highest sea mark (the highest part of the beaches), up to 200 nautical miles from the coast, or just over 400 km offshore. He may also have to exercise his expertise on archaeological operations carried out in the field of fresh water and to ensure the scientific and technical control of operations, at the request of the regional prefect.

The French law provides in Ordinance 2004-178 of 20 February 2004, amended by the Heritage Code (book V), article L532-3 that: "Anyone who discovers a maritime cultural property is required to leave it in place and not to damage it. It must, within 48 hours of discovery or arrival at the first port, make the declaration to the administrative authority".

It is any deposit, wreck, vestige or generally any property of prehistoric, archaeological or historical interest, located in the public maritime domain or at the bottom of the sea in the contiguous area.

The Department of Underwater Archaeological Research, in charge of the inventory, conservation and development of this heritage, will instruct the declaration of discovery in collaboration with the Departmental Directorate of Territories and the Sea (DDTM) / Sea and Coastal Delegations (DML). In case of exceptional discovery, a reward application will be drafted and supported by the archaeologist in charge of the coastline concerned. In case of danger to navigation, the Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service of the Navy will be informed immediately in order to report this new danger on their chart.

This discovery will feed the National Archaeological Map through the Patriarche program for the management of maritime cultural property in the French public maritime domain (on the metropolitan coasts, DOM-TOM-POM, French southern and Antarctic waters).

Objectives of the approach

Knowing the wrecks or archaeological deposits in the broad sense and their positioning remains the only solution for their protection and study.

For the preservation

Maritime cultural assets are valuable assets for historical research and the enhancement of the territory’s heritage, but they are also fragile assets. Their conservation requires important human and material means but also a specific knowledge, which the specialists of the State have.

Am I concerned by this approach?


Previously discovered maritime cultural property

A question?

If you have any questions about the discovery of a maritime cultural property, please contact:

Department of Archaeological Research
Underwater and Underwater
Phone: 04 91 14 28 00 – Fax: 04 91 14 28 14
147, plage de l'Estaque – 13016 Marseille

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