First Mediterranean Conference on Underwater Archaeological Tourism in the memory of “Sebastiano Tusa” and First “Sebastiano Tusa” Underwater Archaeology Award

  • During the 23rd edition of the Mediterranean Exchange of Archaeological Tourism, the First Mediterranean Conference on Underwater Archaeological Tourism in the memory of “Sebastiano Tusa” with the participation of the most famous Mediterranean underwater archaeological destinations and the First “Sebastiano Tusa” Underwater Archaeology Award, that will be assigned to the archaeological discovery of the year or as a career recognition, to the best exhibition in an international scientific context, to the most innovative project by Institutions, Archaeological Parks and Museums, to the best educational journalistic contribute will take place.

    The initiative will take place in collaboration with Sea Superintendence of the Department of Cultural Heritage and Sicilian Identity of Sicilian Region, Underwater Cultural Heritage UNESCO, Regional Department for Europe UNWTO, NIAS Nucleo per gli Interventi di Archeologia Subacquea of ICR Istituto Centrale per il Restauro of MiBACT, Archaeological Park of the Phlegrean Fields, ICOMOS Italy, European University Centre for Cultural Heritage, Accademia Internazionale di Scienze e Tecniche Subacquee, Istituto Italiano di Archeologia Subacquea, Gruppi Archeologici d’Italia, Archeoclub d’Italia.

    The presence of the European University Centre for Cultural Heritage, created in 1983 under the auspices of the Council of Europe, of the Sea Superintendence of the Sicilian Region, of ICOMOS Italia, of NIAS Nucleo per gli Interventi di Archeologia Subacquea of ICR Istituto Centrale per il Restauro of MiBACT, of the Archaeological Park of the Phlegrean Fields has a particular value for the certification of a network of underwater sites in the Cultural Routes programme, launched in 1987 by the Council of Europe. Cultural Routes, putting into practice the values of the Council of Europe – “human rights, cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and exchanges” – are an invitation to travel and discover the rich and diverse European cultural heritage, that aims to create a network of people and places with a shared history and heritage.

    The “Cultural Routes of underwater sites of the Mediterranean Sea” (a network that will connect Campania, Apulia, Sicily, Egypt, Greece and Israel through the sites of Baia Sommersa in the Archaeological Park of the Phlegrean Fields, of Tremiti Islands, of Ustica-Egadi-Pantelleria, of Alexandria, of Pavlopetri and of Caesarea Maritima), are a key resource for responsible tourism and sustainable development, as a response to the activities and to the innovative projects requested by the Council of Europe in the framework of the five priority sectors of action, strategic for the local development and the cultural value of the territory: cooperation in terms of research and development; valorisation of the memory, history and European heritage; cultural and educational exchanges for European young people; contemporary artistic and cultural practices; cultural tourism and sustainable cultural development.

    Underwater sites are the destination of a growing number of tourists. In the world there are, indeed, about 30 million certified divers and about 6 million people “dived” at least once without certification, while more than 3 million “divers” make one or more trips every year.
    Nowadays, travellers are looking more and more for an experiential tourism, in contact with nature and territorial identities, so an amphora, an anchor or an ancient structure underwater are essential part of the natural world, not just relics.
    Therefore, underwater archaeological tourism has characteristics that make it a unique experience and that enhance some elements of the traditional tourism.

    The first element is the preservation of the places: sea ecosystem is fragile and sensible to mass tourism. The spoilage of the beauty of some areas cause the stop of tourism activities, much faster than on earth. To best express its potentialities, underwater archaeological tourism needs an integrated and efficient local tourism system, in which different actors agree to interact, apart from the necessity of areas which already have an environmental juridic protection of the territory.

    The second element is the relation with technology: underwater tourism is a naturalistic practice, as it implies a total contact with the environment, but it is also, from the beginning, a techological practice, since a series of instruments and knowledge are needed and the relation with the environment is always mediated by technology. The world is seen through a mask, in a relationship that is immediately virtual – mediated and immersive – just like the relation that can be established with virtual visors. Starting from there, it is easy to imagine practices of augmented reality. In fact, the last frontier of underwater tourism is to connect more and more the practice of diving in archaeological parks and natural areas with technology and to project augmented reality tours that divers can directly follow in the underwater sites, but also to project augmented reality tours staying on land.

    The project is developed starting from the consideration that there are still few underwater itineraries or archaeological areas that are equipped and open to the public, in Italy and internationally. To be honest, many underwater archaeological sites are destination of visits, also guided ones, of local diving clubs, but they are not preserved and, anyway, they lack signage and didactic organisation for the visit.

    The request of certification of an European Cultural Route to the Council of Europe aims to underline the potentialities of underwater archaeological tourism for the local development of many destinations, even the ones that are far from the most famous localities, for the sake of preservation, authentic experiences and sustainability.

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    The First “Sebastiano Tusa” Underwater Archaeology Award will be assigned to the archaeological discovery of the year or as a career recognition, to the best exhibition in an international scientific context, to the most innovative project by Institutions, Archaeological Parks and Museums, to the best educational journalistic contribute will take place.

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