Wednesday, July 24, 2024

UNESCO Lauds Archeologists For Protecting Mexican Underwater Heritage Sites


Researchers from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and UC San Diego have been lauded for their efforts protecting underwater cultural heritage sites.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recently presented the team with a “Best Practices of Underwater Cultural Heritage” distinction for the team’s archaeological work on the Yucatán Peninsula.

The award recognizes efforts to share underwater cultural heritage sites while preserving their natural state.

Under INAH’s guidance, the team, which includes researchers from UC San Diego’s Qualcomm Institute (QI) and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, has taken a proactive and minimally invasive approach to documenting, sharing and digitally preserving the Hoyo Negro (“Black Hole”), an underwater cave home to dozens of prehistoric animal bones and the skeleton of a teenage girl who lived and died thousands of years ago.

Dominique Rissolo, a research scientist with QI’s Cultural Heritage Engineering Initiative and co-leader of the Scripps Center for Marine Archaeology (SCMA) said:

“Digitally documenting the numerous bone deposits and their surrounding contexts enables us to access the entire site virtually and assess the complex spatial relationships between skeletal elements. Interactive visualization can reveal clues about how the site formed or how the animals and a human individual came to rest on the cave floor.”

SCMA Director Isabel Rivera-Collazo, a professor specializing in human adaptation to climate change with appointments at Scripps and UC San Diego’s Department of Anthropology, added:

“This project is an example of what underwater archaeology can do.”

For more on the Hoyo Negro project, visit the website at

(Featured image credit: Roberto Chavez/Hoyo Negro)

John Liang
John Liang
John Liang is the News Editor at He first got the diving bug while in High School in Cairo, Egypt, where he earned his PADI Open Water Diver certification in the Red Sea off the Sinai Peninsula. Since then, John has dived in a volcanic lake in Guatemala, among white-tipped sharks off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, and other places including a pool in Las Vegas helping to break the world record for the largest underwater press conference.