Denmark comprises many small and large islands. So it has a long coastline, is surrounded by the sea and is rich in submarine cultural heritage.
In the sea bed there are Stone Age settlements that were flooded when the sea rose in later times, shipwrecks that are proof of intensive navigation for thousands of years, and structures from old ports or sea fortifications.
The submarine environment presents exceptional conservation conditions for organic materials and in several of the submarine Stone Age settlements, finds of international significance have been made.
Submarine Heritage Older than 100 Years is Protected
Heritage in the sea, lakes, and rivers is protected under the Danish Museum Act if it is more than 100 years old. In special cases, the Danish Agency for Culture may decide that wrecks of aeroplanes and ships from e.g. the First or Second World War are also to be protected, even though they are not yet 100 years old.
Disturbance or alteration of the protected submarine heritage and shipwrecks is prohibited.
Anyone who becomes aware of submarine heritage or shipwrecks while diving, fishing, etc. must notify the Danish Agency for Culture or the local museum.
Submarine Construction Work
The Danish Agency for Culture is consulted in connection with all construction and excavation on the sea bed, e.g. for port facilities, extraction of raw materials, cable-laying or damming. If the Danish Agency for Culture suspects that the work will disturb protected submarine heritage or shipwrecks, the developer may be ordered to pay for a marine archaeological investigation. This also applies if traces of submarine heritage are found during the construction work.
Marine Archeological Museums
Five museums in Denmark undertake marine archaeological investigations on behalf of the Danish Agency for Culture. They all have specially trained staff and marine archaeological equipment. The museums are each responsible for a separate area of Denmark and Danish territorial waters. The Danish Agency for Culture does not itself undertake any marine archaeological investigations.