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How are underwater relics recovered?

How are underwater relics recovered?

  • Underwater Excavation off the Coast of Biando Island, Gunsan, Jeollabuk-do ProvinceMost underwater cultural heritage of Korea has been discovered and reported by fishermen in their fishery operations. The National Research Institute of Maritime Cultural Heritage, which is exclusively responsible for maritime excavation, performs emergency investigations into the reported sea and, if artifacts are identified there, conducts a full-scale underwater excavation.
  • When the found artifacts need to be protected before excavation, they are managed through measures including the provisional designation as historic relics. 
  • Underwater excavation, given the special environment of sea, requires divers and various excavating equipment, such as sub-bottom profilers, carrier, and vessels loaded with equipment. The excavation process works as follows. 

    ① Study of submerged archeological finds and sites

    - Investigating the condition of submerged artifacts and geological features of the seabed; Photographing, surveying and recording of the surrounding areas


    ② Preparation for exploration and recovery of relics, and installation of grids 

    ③ Exploration and recovery of relics

    - Collecting relics using instruments including air bags, recovery boxes, cranes, and recovery ropes

    - Using air lifts to collect artifacts buried under the underbody of a ship or the sea-bottom


    ④ Conservation of recovered items and sites

    - Conducting dryness prevention treatment in the case of wooden or metal objects, which need emergency preservation

Celadon Pottery Recovered from Waters off Sinan, Jeollanam-do Province / Underwater Excavation