Underwater archaeology investigations in Latvia during the last decade


The first attempt to investigate the underwater world of Latvia was made by archaeologist J.Apals forty years ago. But marine archaeology in Latvia really started off only ten years ago. Here follows a short timeline of Latvian underwater archaeology:

1988. The first meeting of underwater archaeology group "Sela" (Ancient boats).

1989. The beginning of expedition on the Cape of Kolka (Kolkas rags).

1990. The group "Sela" transforms into Jurmala Town Museum (JTM) department.

1991. Agreement of co-operation with Maritime Museum of Tallinn and University of Stockholm.

1992. The first research work on wrecks.

1993-1994. Research and measurement of all ten known pile dwellings in the lakes of Latvia by archaeologist J.Apals and V.Rains.

1995. Research work on 5 wrecks near Sikrags (the Cape of Sikrags).

1996. The first expedition within the valley of Daugava river (hillfort Daugmale).

1997 was an important year. Regular work was begun together with the State Inspection for Protection of Cultural Monuments, studying and registering "underwater section" of cultural and historical heritage of Latvia. Five shipwrecks in Latvian waters obtained the status of cultural monument.

1998.The preparation for investigations of the underwater monuments in Daugava river. Video filming underwater on the cliff of Staburags and Koknese Castle ruins. Daugava was on the crossroads between the waterway from east to west and land-road from north to south. There was a very intensive different culture exchange, trade and also tendency to expand the zone of influence. It is the reason why now there are so much cultural and historical monuments. The largest part of monuments lies now under the water (as the result of building of hydroelectric power stations).

1999-2000. The first excavation of the wrecked ship frame near Kolka coast. The survey work and excavation at the place of the possible Medieval shipyard not far from Ventspils (Dokupite). In order to implement the program of further research, a Centre of Underwater Archaeology has been established in JTM to coordinate all underwater archaeology in Latvia. International co-operation continues to intensity. Since 1998 joint underwater research and examination of Latvian waters have been made under international projects, in co-operation with Swedish ships "Jacob Hägg" (Swedish Royal Navy) and "Altair" (Swedish Royal Institute of Technology). A co-operation program has been developed with the National Maritime Museum in Stockholm, providing for continued underwater research in Latvia, consultations for establishment of a base of underwater archaeology in Latvia etc.

A legal mechanism for preservation and protection of monuments of underwater archaeology has been developed in cooperation with the State Inspection for Protection of Cultural Monuments and Latvian Centre of Restoration.

Underwater archaeologists of Latvia have much work in store, sufficient for decades, maybe centuries, and currently the main hindrance is insufficient financing of the museum sector in general. And this is not a problem of museum people and archaeologists in Latvia only either. But despite all the problems we are quite optimistic and to do our best for our underwater heritage.

Jurmala, December, 2001

Voldemars Rains
head of Dept of Marine archaeology
Jurmala Muzeums
Jana Pliekšana iela 82-8
LV-2015 Jurmala, Latvia

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Underwater archaeology in Latvia, 1996

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