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Taiwan, France sign 2nd undersea archaeological pact

2012/03/06 20:54:18

Taipei, March 6 (CNA) Taiwan and France signed Tuesday their second pact since 2007 to continue bilateral cooperation on underwater archaeological research, saying that the cooperation will focus on research, training and site preservation.

Representatives from Taiwan's Council for Cultural Affairs (CCA) and the Department for Underwater and Undersea Archeological Research (DRASSM) under France's Ministry of Culture inked the four-year pact at a ceremony in Taipei.

Wang Shou-lai, an official of the CCA, said the pact will allow Taiwan to benefit from advanced French technology in underwater archeology and learn from its laws protecting underwater resources.

It will also allow Taiwan to send personnel to France to receive training and translate French undersea archeology publications to benefit local studies, he said.

Tsang Cheng-hwa, an archaeologist and researcher at Academia Sinica, said a team of more than 10 researchers is planning to explore the marine environment of Taiwan's Dongsha Atoll in the South China Sea from April through May.

He said historical documents show that at least 40 ships from countries such as Spain, Portugal, Japan and Sweden have sunk in the area and that his team could benefit from French resources in hunting for the wrecks.

"The French department (DRASSM) in Marseille has very advanced technology, underwater vehicles and diving equipment," said Tsang.

"If there is a need in the future, we hope to cooperate with the department in technological terms."

The ceremony also displayed various artifacts recovered from underwater sites around Taiwan since 2006 by Tsang's team and another research team from National Sun Yat-Sen University.

As of the end of 2011, the teams had found two sunken ships from China, one from Britain and five from Japan in the oceans around Taiwan.

They discovered numerous items of Yue ware from the Northern Song Dynasty at one research site, as well as animal fossils dating back 40,000 years at another.

"We hope to help Taiwan better preserve and maintain its underwater cultural heritage, whether sunken ships or airplanes," said Frederic Leroy, deputy director for archeological research at DRASSM.

In addition to preserving underwater sites, Leroy said DRASSM also hopes to help Taiwan in its underwater archeological research and in publishing and exhibiting artifacts it recovers from undersea sites.

DRASSM is a department under the French government that specializes in studying and managing underwater cultural heritage.

Since its establishment in 1966, it has helped identify more than 1,500 undersea archaeological sites in France and abroad.

(By Christie Chen)