A new maritime archaeology centre has been established at the University of Montenegro, the first research unit of its kind in the Balkan nation.
Based in the University’s Centre for Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Faculty of Maritime Studies in the Adriatic coastal town of Kotor, the mission of the Laboratory of Maritime Archaeology is ‘to foster research in maritime and underwater archaeology, support policy development and make the underwater cultural heritage of Montenegro accessible to the public by applying state-of-the-art methodology and the highest scientific standards for investigation, documentation, interpretation and promotion of maritime archaeological and underwater cultural heritage sites.’
The Laboratory of Maritime Archaeology (LabMA) has been headed up by Maritime Archaeologist Darko Kovacevic, formerly an executive at Malta’s Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit (UCHU), which was instrumental in discovering new wrecks and bringing much-needed protected status to existing wrecks lost during the First and Second World Wars in Maltese waters.
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The Montenegrin Laboratory arose as a result of Wrecks4All project, led by the Montenegrin Faculty of Maritime Studies as a joint initiative with Bosnian and Croatian partners to create an innovative branch of tourism based on the underwater cultural heritage of the Eastern Adriatic region.
Bordered by Italy, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, and Slovenia, the Adriatic represents an area of the Mediterranean that was of strategic importance both militarily and economically for centuries before the rise of the Roman Empire, and therefore home to many authentic shipwrecks and other underwater heritage sites that are highly regarded among the scuba diving community.
Similarly to the mapping of Maltese wrecks by UCHU, Wrecks4All uses immersive technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to bring unreachable sites closer to tourists, with 9 VR/AR tours and a virtual map of underwater heritage trails set to be available in newly refurbished showrooms in the Croatian city of Split, Mostar in Bosnia, and Kotor.
Equipped with an 8.5m boat with twin outboard engines, diving equipment, full underwater photogrammetry and laser scanning data acquisition sets, remote sensing equipment (SSS and MBES), 3D printers, and workstations for data processing and analysis, LabMA will continue to develop innovative research methods and documentation techniques to extend the protections afforded to the Eastern Adriatic under the provisions of the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage.
‘The Laboratory of Maritime Archaeology will be an instrument to foster dive tourism sector development by giving expertise to the institutions in the chain of tourism and cultural heritage for the enhancement of protective legislations,’ said Kovacevic in an e-mail to DIVE. ‘The ultimate vision of LabMA is to promote Montenegro as an attractive and safe dive destination with accessible and protected underwater cultural heritage.’