You are here:
  1. Index
  2. Recursos
  3. Underwater archaeology in Spain

Underwater archaeology in Spain

The first Boards for Underwater Archaeology were set up in the '70s in Girona, Cartagena, the Balearic Islands and Ceuta. In the '80s, official institutions devoted to underwater archaeology began to emerge in Spain: 1982 saw the inauguration of the Museum and National Centre for Underwater Archaeological Research in Cartagena, now called ARQUA, the National Museum of Underwater Archaeology. In the '90s, official centres for underwater archaeology were established in Catalonia (1992), Valencia (1996) and Andalusia (1997). The work of these centres is to manage, protect, research and disseminate information on the historical heritage that is submerged off the coast of the communities to which they belong.

The Mediterranean coast


The Government of Catalonia, having absorbed the previous C.I.A.S. body in Girona – the Underwater Archaeological Centre of Catalonia – via Decree 237/1992, is an entity that is able to respond to the requirements of Underwater Cultural Heritage in Catalonian waters. It falls under the umbrella of the Archaeology Museum of Catalonia and has been based in Girona since 1996.

The Valencian Community

In the '90s, the Valencian Community began to take part in work on underwater heritage via its Department of Culture. The Centre for Underwater Archaeology of the Government of Valencia was set up and is based in Puerto de Burriana (Castellón).

The Region of Murcia

Research in the Region of Murcia came about thanks to the close cooperation that was established between the regional government and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports via ARQUA, the National Museum of Underwater Archaeology (Royal Decree 1508/2008). Currently, projects by the National Museum of Underwater Archaeology, ARQUA, in underwater archaeology that are underway are as follows: Bajo de la Campana, Mazarrón 2 as well as archaeo-geophysical surveys the the Bay of Cartagena. The museum has also signed several partnership agreements with: INA, Aurora Trust SP and a number of universities.


With a coastline on both the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, the Autonomous Community of Andalusia created C.A.A.S (the Andalusian Centre for Underwater Archaeology) which is based in the Balneario de la Palma y del Real, in Cadiz. It is an entity with many means available to carry out documentation work as well as protect underwater archaeological heritage. It has been responsible for drawing up Archaeological Charters and managing various excavations, as well as playing an important role in the diffusion of information.

The Autonomous Cities of Ceuta and Melilla

With special maritime surroundings and being sea-routes for ships between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, Ceuta and Melilla have had a very rich historical-maritime past. This has resulted in the creation of a wealth of underwater heritage, which has been explored thanks to various agreements, partnerships and actions.

The Atlantic coast - The Cantabrian coast

Galicia and the Basque Country

On the Cantabrian coast, in particular in the Basque Country and Galicia, although there are no official centres specifically devoted to underwater archaeology, there are groups that are actively working, and these are the seeds of things to come.

The Principality of Asturias

Currently, in the Principality of Asturias, there is no specific body that encompasses all the aspects for the protection of underwater heritage. There is, however, a project of "Archaeological Surveys on the Asturian coast", sponsored by the University of Oviedo, the Ministry of Culture of the Principality of Asturias and the city of Gijón.


Work on underwater archaeology in Cantabria is focused primarily on modern-day maritime heritage and has been linked to the Maritime Museum of Cantabria since 1981. In 1983, L.I.A.S. (the Laboratory for Underwater Archaeological Research) was set up. This is a private institution based at the Maritime Museum of Cantabria. Since 2005, the Ministry of Culture of the Government of Cantabria has an archaeological department that includes staff with specific training and experience in underwater archaeology. Since then, all institutional activities related to this particular heritage are carried out in partnership with this Department and the Maritime Museum; both are part of the Directorate General of Culture of the regional government.

Island Communities

Work in the two island communities is frequent thanks to specific discoveries and concrete research: they are also working on the creation of underwater archaeological charts.

The Balearic Islands

In the case of the Balearic Islands, responsibility for archaeological heritage is taken on by the respective Island Boards of Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza and Formentera. This includes permits, investment, inspections, in other words, the conservation, protection and dissemination of heritage.Salto de línea These Island Boards ensure the continuation of the work to create and monitor underwater archaeological maps by carrying out the necessary archaeological surveys and disseminating information on underwater cultural heritage.Salto de línea Joint actions are also carried out with the Civil Guard to protect and safeguard underwater archaeological heritage.Salto de línea They collaborate with the actions and goals of the National Plan for Underwater Cultural Heritage designed by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports. It should be highlighted that, under said Plan, Menorca carried out the second phase of archaeological excavations on the old Binissafúller wreck.

The Canary Islands

The Canary Islands have often partnered up with Portuguese islands such as the Azores and Madeira, and the inter-island council of the Canary Islands has worked hard in this field.