Coastal and Maritime Archaeology

Britain is an island nation and our shores have long been the points of contact with the outside world. Trade, invasion and defence, exploration, settlement, leisure and industry have all left distinctive marks on the shores and in the seas of Britain. Wales is certainly no exception.

This maritime heritage is a valuable resource and all evidence can be used to tell the stories of our connections with the sea. Shipwrecks and hulks are obvious sources of information, and objects, harbours, buildings and structures are also important in building a picture of our past.

There are other, more unexpected, stories to be found in and next to the sea. The boundary between land and sea changes over time. Today’s coastline is radically different from the coast which our prehistoric ancestors would have known and exploited thousands of years ago. We can sometimes see traces of their landscapes, parts of the land they would have known can now only be glimpsed in the intertidal zone or through innovative programmes of seabed mapping.

Cadw has an important role to play in protecting our maritime heritage. We can legally protect important sites through designating them as scheduled ancient monuments and we can also give legal protection to the most significant wrecks by designating them under the 1973 Protection of Wrecks Act. We also work with the Marine Consents Unit to ensure that the protection of maritime heritage is taken into account during developments.

The main source of information about wrecks and all aspects of our underwater heritage is the marine database of the National Monument Record compiled by the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments in Wales with whom Cadw works closely to ensure records and surveys are comprehensive and reach the widest possible audience.