Marine Week at Iziko

  • Posted: Sep 29, 2017

Join us for a celebration of our national heritage from 9–15 October 2017, right here at Iziko Museums of South Africa. South Africa is the third most biologically diverse country in the world, with our marine resources providing jobs, food and recreation for its people. National Marine Week is celebrated annually during the second week of October, to create awareness of the marine and coastal environment, and the promotion of sustainable use and conservation of these resources, for the benefit of present and future generations.

One of the keys to current Iziko research in both marine biology and maritime archaeology are projects involving a number of institutes collaborating with each

other to gain a more holistic perspective. For example, the SeaKeys project, funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa through the Foundational Biodiversity Information Programme (FBIP), brings together scientists, citizens and decision makers in order to unlock foundational biodiversity knowledge and ensure it is absorbed through the value chain through to decision making and providing sustained societal benefit. Some project highlights include new marine genera and species described, bioprospecting discoveries, and use of data in sensitive area mapping, collating and mapping monitoring efforts and application in policy advice. A total of 26 national marine species checklists were generated (17 new for South Africa) and newly digitised occurrence records totaling 143,011 and 260 species pages were also compiled.

“With an estimated 3,000 historical shipwrecks off our coast, South Africa has a vast underwater cultural heritage. This wealth of heritage, combined with our substantial marine biodiversity, means that South Africa has not only some of the most scientifically and historically interesting waters off our coasts but also the most beautiful. By applying the expertise of both biologists and archaeologists to sites we can learn so much more about how the natural and cultural worlds interact and infer knowledge of their future,” says Jake Harding, maritime archaeologist at Iziko.

The wreck of the Portuguese Slaver São José is currently the lead project in the international co-operative Slave Wrecks Project, including

core partners like the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, George Washington University, US National Park Service, African Centre for Heritage Activities, and the South African Heritage Resources Agency. Symbolising the global slave trade, the preservation of this ship and the site of its wreck, just off Clifton Beach in Cape Town, is one of the first successful attempts at archaeologically documenting a wreck that ran aground with its cargo of enslaved Africans on board. It is also the first known slave shipwreck found off the South African coast. In 2016, Iziko was fortunate to secure US $500,000 from the US Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation to complete this project and ensure the environmental stability of this sensitive site and the conservation of the artefacts that have been retrieved.

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