Avondster project

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Project-icon.png Project
Avondster project
Avondster underwater.jpg
Other name Avondster project
Location
Continent Asia
Countries Sri Lanka
Sites Galle
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Status
Project duration 01-01-01  till 01-08-07
Contact
Website http://cf.hum.uva.nl/galle/
Classification
Type of Project Training and Education
Discipline Archaeology
Activity Capacity building
Category Underwater heritage
Keyword(s)
VOC, Archaeology, Maritime Heritage, Sri Lanka
Avondster Project Poster

Since the early 1990s a Sri Lanka-international team of maritime archaeologists, historians and museum curators have been doing research in the Bay of Galle and in the extensive archives in Sri Lanka and the Netherlands. Underwater surveys have revealed an impressive number of heritage sites, dated from the 13th century up to modern times. From 2000 these activities became more institutionalized with the forming of a Maritime Archaeological Unit (MAU) Sri Lanka. The main objective was to extend capacity in Sri Lanka for maritime heritage management. These goals were met by training through an excavation project of the Anglo-Dutch East-Indiaman Avondster in the Bay of Galle. After the ship was discovered in 1993 it became clear that the wreck was increasingly exposed, and it was considered important to implement a rescue archaeology project on the site to safeguard this important collection. From 2001 till the end of 2004 important sections of the ship have been excavated, collections conserved and preparations made to open a first gallery in the National Maritime Museum in Galle at the end of 2005.

On 26 December 2004, only days after the excavation of the Avondster was finalized, the MAU premises was destroyed in the Tsunami. Luckily all members of the team survived the killer-wave, but a substantial part of the historical collections and equipment were lost. It is unsettling to realize that all the efforts to safeguard an important historical collection have eventually contributed to the opposite; the loss of a substantial part of the excavated collection while the remaining artefacts on the wreck are possibly now better conserved due to a thick layer of Tsunami sediment. The staff of the MAU had prepared a programme for the survey, management and presentation of other maritime heritage in Galle starting January 2005. Despite the unfathomable humanitarian disaster that is taking place around them and the loss of their facilities, the spirit of this group of young professionals is unbroken. They are determined that the future for this new discipline and thus their own future should not be washed away by the Tsunami.

Immediately after the disaster an international network was activated to bring together the necessary equipment and funds. Nearly three months after the Tsunami destroyed the facilities, the team are in a position to resume their activities. On 24 March the new building for the MAU was officially opened and the basic infrastructure was restored and the recovered artefacts placed back in conservation. Risk and decay of collections are inherent in almost any kind of historical-archaeological investigation and museum display. It is ironical that the sea took a collection, once formed through a shipwreck, now centuries later for the second time. The fact that the wreck site appears untouched by the Tsunami raises the issue of where is the safest place for the material. However, at the end of the day it will be determination of these young professionals that will safeguard the collection, wherever it is situated, for future generations. With their enthusiasm to show the rich maritime history of Sri Lanka to the world, the maritime heritage might be safeguarded from the biggest threat it faces; the treasure hunters who are still creating a much bigger risk to heritage in the region than any natural disaster.


Project information

Objectives

Underwater archaeology
  • Capacity building (training and infrastructure) in the field of maritime archaeology and the conservation of the salvaged artefacts.
  • To conserve and investigate the Avondster site.
  • To gain knowledge on Dutch ship-wrecks in the Bay of Galle, and Dutch shipwrecks from the colonial expansion time in general.
  • Developing a research programme about the role of Galle as an emporium in the Indian Ocean region.
  • Increasing public awareness through the establishment of a maritime archaeological museum in Sri Lanka.
  • To formulate a viable policy for the protection of antiquities.



Result(s)

Artefact Catalogue and Excavation Report

Following this project, the CCF will explore the possibility of developing underwater tourism within and in the vicinity of the Galle harbour. The MAU has now grown into a full institutional operation under Deputy Director General, Dr. Mohan Abeyratne and with UNESCO Bangkok funding for the commencement of the Asia-Pacific Maritime Training School. Policy papers are now being framed to establish the International Oceanographic Research Institute linked to the MAU in Galle.



Document(s)
Parthesius, R. (ed.) Avondster Project. Excavation report of the VOC ship Avondster (2007)
Parthesius, R. (ed.) Avondster Project. Artefact Catalogue of the VOC ship Avondster (2007)


Relations

Involved organisation(s)
Amsterdam Museum
Central Cultural Fund
Mutual Heritage Centre Sri Lanka
Centre for International Heritage Activities
University of Amsterdam
Western Australian Maritime Museum

Funding organisation(s)
HGIS Fund
Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Colombo, Sri Lanka
Prince Claus Fund, Cultural Emergency Response
Amsterdam Centre for Golden Age Studies, University of Amsterdam
Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology
Foundation De Vuurslag, Stichting de Vuurslag

Organisations referring to this project
Central Cultural Fund
Centre for International Heritage Activities
Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Colombo, Sri Lanka
Postgraduate Institute of Archaeology, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka
University of Amsterdam
Western Australian Maritime Museum



Involved expert(s)
Robert Parthesius
Ross Anderson
Kevin Cambridge
Jon Carpenter
Wijamunige Chandaratne
A.M.A. Dayananda
Jeremy Green
Anusha Kasturi
Menno Leenstra
Rasika Muthucumarana
Wessel Pil
Gamini Saman
Kamal de Soyza
Darshani Samanthilaka
Janake Warusavithana
K. D. Palita Weerasinghe

Experts referring to this project
Ross Anderson
Jon Carpenter
Wijamunige Chandaratne
Barbara Consolini
Jeremy Green
Anusha Kasturi
Menno Leenstra
Rasika Muthucumarana
Robert Parthesius
Darshani Samanthilaka
Gamini Saman
Janake Warusavithana
K. D. Palita Weerasinghe
Kamal de Soyza
Kevin Cambridge



Related Project(s)
Balance of the Museum Complex including Avondster Gallery
Galle Harbour Project

Publications / Documents


Records


External link(s)

http://cf.hum.uva.nl/galle/

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