Category Archives: Vietnam Maritime Archaeology Training

Vietnam Maritime Archaeology Project – The final results

With the project coming to a close, results have to be written up. The versatility of the different assignments means that there are a number of conclusions that can be drawn for this project. These results range from the archaeological results of the underwater archaeology conducted to the more anthropological results of the Vietnamese shipbuilding research.

Blog 11 Vietnam 02

The visits to the different shipbuilding yards near Hoi-An helped in giving us an understanding of the maritime techniques used in Vietnam. This resulted in numerous drawings of ships as well as in giving the trainees extensive practice in the process of drawing these ships. These results are important for both the capacity building as well as to create a frame of reference for possible finds, and how to register these finds.

Blog 11 Vietnam 03

Furthemore, extensive practice and research with 3D-photogrammetry software was carried out. This way we were able to create 3D records of a number of boats, ceramic artefacts, and cannons located in Hoi-An and Hue.  These were usually objects of unknown origins and these 3D models can be used by experts to gain more information regarding these artefacts. Attempts are also being made at creating a 3D model of the site at Bai Ong which could be extremely useful for mapping and possibly even locating finds in the area. This modelling is still in progress.

As for the underwater archaeological surveys, a number of different results were achieved. First of all, we (re)located a number of potential archaeological sites, such as the stone anchor site, through diving surveys and interviews with local fishermen and divers. Also, numerous sites containing ceramic artefacts were located around the coastline of the Cu Lao Cham islands which can be useful for future research by the Vietnamese Institute of Archaeology.

Blog 11 Vietnam 04

Most importantly though was the discovery of the possible shipwreck site located in Bai Ong. This site contained a plethora of ceramic artefacts and could prove to be an important site for future research.  What we were able to find out about the site in a three day non-intrusive survey was this: the site consists of an area with broken pottery. Most of them are from one type of storage jars from the 16th to 17th century. The objects are caught in sand pockets and beneath rocks in the shallows of the shore of the Cham Islands. Other pottery found at the site– in smaller amounts – also has the same date.  The pottery that is surfacing the seabed is concentrated in a small area of about 20 by 25 metres. A corroded iron nail that was found on site might indicate the presence of a shipwreck. Hopefully wood is still preserved in the larger depressions between the rocks that are filled with sand. Further research has to confirm this. There were reports of wood being sighted at the site but we were unable to relocate this.

Blog 11 Vietnam 05

Blog 11 Vietnam 06

Blog 11 Vietnam 07

I hope everyone has enjoyed following the project through this blog and other sources, and keep following the maritime programme for more updates on the numerous projects that they have going on!

For the last time, greetings from Hoi-An,


Vietnam Maritime Archaeology Project – The last days of diving

With the project drawing to an end, Tuesday and Wednesday were our last days of diving. These last few days we tested our skills as (future) maritime archaeologists by letting the groups work individually at the Bai Ong site. It is important to note that this was the first time that many of us experienced an actual archaeological site underwater.

Blog 10 Vietnam 02

Blog 10 Vietnam 03

The site was set-up on Monday by one of our teams who placed down a permanent baseline which marked the beginning of our site. This baseline would from then on be our fixed point from which we would be able to map all of the research that we’d conduct on the site. This is an important aspect to avoid redundancy and prevent different teams from researching the same area. Most importantly though, these measurements can be used to recreate the locations of these artefacts comparative to each other. These comparisons play an important role in the interpretation of the site.

Blog 10 Vietnam 04

The earthenware on this site was mostly grouped in clusters of about multiple objects, with scores of individual pieces scattered throughout the site. It was therefore decided that we would work in 1 meter by 1 meter grids placed over these clusters and measured from the baseline to accurately map as many of these clusters as we could in the last few days. Specific objects were positioned through trilateration from the baseline as well.

Blog 10 Vietnam 05

With Approximately 4 people per team, each person had a specific role to make the process as streamlined as possible. With one person measuring the grid, one person describing the finds, someone to draw the grid and the location of the artefacts related to each other, and another person photographing the finds, the process of recording these grids took somewhere between 30 minutes to an hour.

Blog 10 Vietnam 06

These clusters consisted of a  number of interesting ceramics, with some pieces dating back to the 16th/17th century whereas the date of (most)other pieces is still unknown. We mapped and researched as many of these clusters as we could in the 3 days that we had left while also taking GPS-locations of certain clusters and fixed points. While we ourselves might not continue our research here, this information will be handed over to the Vietnamese institute of archaeology who might continue our research there in the future.

By the end of Wednesday, our last day of diving, we had researched a total of 8 grids. While this was a good start on researching the site, this also leaves plenty of (possible)future work for the Vietnamese institute of Archaeology, or other archaeological organisations planning any research on the Cham Islands in the future.

With the project coming to a closure, there is only one blog remaining. This last blog will be posted this weekend and will speak of the project’s conclusion.

Greetings from Hoi-An


Vietnam maritime archaeology project – The Cu Lao Cham shipwreck

By the end of the third week our surveys finally hit a breakthrough. While most of the artefacts so far were (likely) individual wash-ups or other objects that did not necessarily indicate the presence of a site, the objects found at our newest location are most likely part of a shipwreck and will therefore be the main focus of the rest of our project. This could be exciting news as this shipwreck was not documented anywhere and was therefore a surprise (yet expected) find.

This new location near Bai Lang was the place where we’d expect most of our finds and was one of our main locations in the first week. However, due to the touristic value of this beach and the accompanying presence of many speedboats, it was deemed too dangerous a location to dive for some of the more inexperienced divers and we were therefore forced to move to other locations around the island. By the end of week 3 our divers were deemed experienced enough to move to this location and this proved to be a worthwhile decision when on one of the first days at this site we found a number of large clusters of ceramic artefacts.

Blog 9 Vietnam 02

These ceramic artefacts are mainly grouped up in a small area (approximately 20×30 square meter) as opposed to being spread out along the entire coast which instantly made us suspicious of a shipwreck. When, after further surveying, a large number of these ceramic artefacts seemed to date back to the same period and were suspiciously similar to each-other we were almost certain that this was the location of a shipwreck that was worthy of further investigation.

Blog 9 Vietnam 03

Based on the ceramic finds at the site this shipwreck likely dates back to approximately the 16th century and was probably importing ceramics from the mainland of Vietnam (or possibly even a different country) to the Cham Islands when it sunk, either because of a storm or because of other reasons.

Blog 9 Vietnam 04

However, due to the fact that almost nothing is known about this shipwreck, further investigation is required. This started on Friday with the photographing and GPS-mapping of some of the more interesting clusters of ceramic artefacts, as well as surveying the area for signs of the actual ship. These surveys were carried out by both snorkelling as well as scuba diving due to the shallow nature of the site. However, due to the presence of large amounts of coral which would snag our baselines and measuring tapes it was decided that we would do a free-swim around the area as opposed to doing swim line searches.

Blog 9 Vietnam 05

The surveying of this area on Friday sets us up for properly grid based archaeological research of the artefacts in week 4 which should give us some more insight into how much earthenware remains in the area and increase our knowledge on what sort of shipwreck we actually encountered.

As always, greetings from Hoi-An,


Vietnam Maritime Archaeology Project – My Son special

An important aspect of the Vietnamese cultural heritage is the Cham (or Champa) period. The Cham people originally inhabited large parts of south-east Asia and Vietnam was no exception. One of their most important religious sites was the My Son temple complex. This is a series of Hindu temple complexes located near modern day Danang built by the Cham people between 400-1400 A.D.. While large parts of the complex were destroyed during the Vietnam war, a number of temples still remains.

My Son is a very popular site for tourists due to its inherent beauty and its notability as UNESCO world heritage site. Even outside of the tourist season the place has a lot of visitors and is a must see for people traveling through central Vietnam. It is therefore that a number of people from the project decided to visit this site on our day off, under guidance of a tour guide from the Vietnamese ministry of culture.

Blog 8 Vietnam 02

The site of My-Son holds so much value to the Cham basically due to a number of facts. First of all,  an important aspect of the Champ culture was its intangible heritage, which are their music, dances, and rituals. This type of heritage also plays an important role at the My Son site with a number of acts being performed at regular times such as dancing, singing, and musical performances. Due to the Champa people being spread over such a wide area at the height of their culture, these different intangible heritage aspects are present in multiple countries in this region.

Blog 8 Vietnam 03

There are a number of different buildings in this temple complex, build in different time periods. The 4 main buildings still standing are the Kalan, the Mandapa, the Kosagrha, and the Gopura. These 4 buildings all have different functions and meanings:

The Kalan, one of the most important buildings, is a sanctuary in which a deity houses. These sanctuaries are often “tower shaped” buildings constructed out of brick and play a major role in the ritual process of the Cham people.

Blog 8 Vietnam 04

The Mandapa Is not necessarily a functional building in itself, but more of a hallway leading to the main sanctuary/ritual building. While it is not a specifically interesting or important building by itself it still plays an important role in the ritual process.

The Kosagra is also known as the fire-house and is used as a storehouse for a deity’s valuables and other objects. It is therefore closely related to the Kalan.

Finally you have the Gopura. These are basically the buildings through which you enter a ritual site and therefor they play an aesthetically important role.

While there are a number of temples still standing in My Son, a large part of the complex has been partially destroyed. This is not due to natural erosion as one might expect however, but it is because the site was bombed during the Vietnam war. (Unexploded) bombs that were dropped here during this period of destruction are shown in some of the temples and are a permanent part of the exhibition.

Even though the site has largely been destroyed, it is still one of the major religious complexes in the region and shares a similar function as Angkor, even though it is not quite as famous.

If you want to learn more about this project, or any of the surrounding (UNESCO) sites then please follow us on facebook at:

Greetings from Hoi-An,


Vietnam Maritime Archaeology Project – Australian 3DMAPPR special

Today’s guest blog, written by Australian participant and trainer Ian McCan, is related to the use of 3D photogrammetry software and techniques. These techniques create a 3D image of an object by combining a number of photographs through a software programme (see also the blogs of the RCE dive team on the Oostvoornse meer: . This 3D object can then be rotated and send to people around the world as a means for research, for promotion purposes, or as a way to get the public involved. Ian McCan will now tell you more about the 3D photogrammetry project that he is involved with.

The 3DMAPPR (3D Maritime Archaeology Project – Perth Region) dates back to April 2014 and is a community-based project partly funded by an Austral-Asian Institute for Maritime Archaeology (AIMA) Scholarship in order to financially support the first stage of  the program of shipwrecks site documentation, visualization and management. The main focuses of this starting step are:

(1) the development of a low-cost photogrammetry package intended to facilitate the (3D) recording of underwater cultural heritage in the Perth region

(2) the training of community members in underwater photogrammetric recording and image processing techniques.

Blog 7 Vietnam 02
A 3D photogrammetry example made by one of the VMAP teams, showing the programs ease of use

The longer-term objectives for this project are for the hardware/software package and 3D imagery results to be used as a solution for low-budget (archaeology)groups or volunteer organizations as a management tool for the continual monitoring of endangered and important archaeological and non-archaeological sites.

This would also provide the ground work for the future use of augmented reality technologies as part of new virtual shipwreck trail visualization and for the use of 3D printing technologies within museum displays. This project is therefore not only focused on its application in archaeology as it is conducted today, but also aims to help create the future of archaeology.

Blog 7 Vietnam 03

Despite a comprehensive knowledge of maritime sites in the Perth Metropolitan area, the current status and condition of many sites remains somewhat uncertain due to a lack of up to date management and monitoring. This is associated with several additional factors, including a scarcity of detailed documentation for many local sites; a lack of any facility or tool to monitor the causes, nature, and scale of changes to local sites and their immediate environments; and a reliance on the involvement of (often) amateurs and hobbyists, with accompanying pressure on time, money, and expertise. Given these issues and the considerable constraints and limitations inherent in traditional (manual) survey and recording techniques, there was a clear need for alternative approaches to be adopted and implemented if on-going management of the sites in the Perth area and beyond is to be both timely and effective. Necessarily, any such approach needs to meet several criteria in order to make it fit for purpose. This includes time and cost effectiveness; ability to utilize off-the-shelf hardware and software systems; capability of operating with minimal user intervention; and accuracy and repeatability.

The technical details

A detailed literature review and preliminary land-based and underwater testing indicates that multi-image 3D photogrammetry best meets the above requirements. Multi-image 3D photogrammetry (MIP) is a term that describes the use of large 2D image datasets to reconstruct the 3D geometry of an object or scene using Structure from Motion (SFM) and Dense Multi-View 3D Reconstruction (DMVR) techniques. While the use of photogrammetric techniques has a long history in the context of land-based natural and cultural heritage documentation, its wider adoption and adaptation to underwater conditions has been considerably delayed owing to a number of technical and practical constraints and high technical overheads.

Blog 7 Vietnam 04

While several of these issues – particularly those related to underwater conditions (e.g. water turbidity, poor visibility, light attenuation and refraction) – remain, the advances in low-cost computing, digital imaging and software design have facilitated the development of what are effectively multi-image photogrammetry solutions. These solutions offer considerable advantages over traditional techniques, including rapidity, objectivity and relative simplicity of implementation; suitability for capture of large and complex objects; high potential accuracy; ability to use inexpensive and highly portable equipment (such as GoPro cameras); captured images contain all data required to facilitate 3D reconstruction; and the ability to utilize legacy data, thereby facilitating reconstruction and comparison of data from successive surveys and/or archive sources.

There are a considerable number of open-source (the Bundler + PMVS2 + CMVS assembly), web-based (123D Catch, Hyper3D/Cubify3D) and stand-alone (Photoscan, Photomodeller Scanner) multi-image photogrammetry solutions available at the moment. Each of these solutions offers varying degrees of user input and control over the resulting dataset. However, for the purposes of the project, it has been decided to employ Photoscan Pro, due to it being somewhat of a de facto standard in the field of archaeological photogrammetric documentation, being employed in a number of terrestrial and (increasingly) underwater scenarios. Unlike competing packages, Photoscan Pro represents a unified solution that incorporates not only the standard image acquisition, image rectification/alignment, and geometry extraction processing pipeline, but also has geo-registration capabilities and the option to output digital elevation models (DEM) and orthophotography (Geometrically corrected aerial photographs). These functions make it a versatile package suited for the many different archaeological needs.

Ian McCan

Vietnam maritime archaeology project – Fighting the Silt

While the weather has taken a turn for the worst, the project steadily continues. During week one the main focus was on all the different people getting accustomed to each-other and practicing our underwater surveying skills. Week two is all about putting these skills to the test. Furthermore, this week marks the first archaeological dives for some of the recent recipients of a diving certificate.

Diving is however not the only aspect of this project. Another similarly important project is processing the different artefacts this project might turn up. An important tool in processing these artefacts is named 3D photogrammetry. This “tool” turns your photos of an object into a digital 3d rendition which can then be send to, and researched by, professors, experts, and other people from all over the world almost as if they had access to the physical object. This makes it a lot easier for experts from outside the project to give their input and quickens the research process. The teams have been practicing this rather successfully on some of the artefacts present in one of the local museums with incredibly detailed results.

3D rendering of one of the 15th/16th century artefacts in the museum
3D rendering of one of the 15th/16th century artefacts in the museum

Another important aspect is understanding the Vietnamese maritime culture and giving the trainees in this project a number of reference points that they can look out for under water. The groups where therefore sent to a number of different boatbuilding-and-repairing villages surrounding Hoi-An where they were shown the specifics of Vietnamese boats as well as how they are made and repaired. Apart from being a very interesting process, it also helped to create an understanding of Vietnamese maritime culture which will help the trainees while they are out in the field, or in this case out in the ocean.

Simultaneously to these other activities, there were of course also people diving near the wonderful Cham islands. After a rocky start this week, with weather that prevented us from diving on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday proved to be a lot more eventful. Tuesday was spent at our usual diving spot of “around the corner of Bai Lang Bay”, which still requires a lot more research. While nothing of notable interest was found the teams did manage to GPS-map the bay which will make it easier to mark/reference any future points of interest on a map and prevents us from losing track of where all our different archaeological artefacts and sites are.

Wednesday proved to be a more eventful day as we were forced to move to a different site due to the Vietnamese military having target practice at our usual location. with both of the diving teams finding numerous artefacts at the bottom of the ocean, this day soon proved to be rather successful. While after some more thorough research it seems unlikely that these artefacts are old enough to be of use for our research, it does show us that our teams do a good job and manage to pick up on any irregularities on the sea bottom.

Some of the divers on their way to the site
Some of the divers on their way to the site

Finally, while our diving teams were out scouring the bottom of the ocean, our Australian one-man snorkelling team (I’m talking to you, Ian) managed to find a possible new archaeological site with a number of, by the looks of it, very old and certainly very interesting pieces of ceramic alongside some very interesting sea-life. This surely was a site that we will have to research again in the near future and that might lead to some interesting results.

A very surprised eel
A very surprised eel
Blog 5 Vietnam 07
One of the found pottery shards underwater

Greetings from Hoi-An,


Vietnam maritime archaeology project – Hoi-An special

Hoi-An is a beautiful city located on the east coast of central Vietnam. Consisting out of a beautiful historic city and an ever growing modern part, Hoi-An was rightfully chosen to be considered a UNESCO world heritage site. However, the city’s appeal comes not only from the historic inner city, but is also derived from the fact that it ‘s a hub for divers, snorkels, and sightseeers to go and visit the nearby Cham islands.

Blog 4 Vietnam 02

The historic city of Hoi-An dates back to the 15th-16th century. It was originally a minor trading village in the 15th century with some Portuguese influences throughout the 16th century. It wasn’t until the end of the 16th century that Hoi-An really started flourishing under the Nguyen lords. The commercial interest of these lords was unprecedented in Vietnam in that period and under their rule Hoi-An became a major player in Vietnamese trade relations. Traders from Portugal, England, China, Japan, and more all flocked to Hoi-An to share in the profits. This turned the city into one of the most important trading conduits between Asia and Europe.

Blog 4 Vietnam 03

Hoi-An’s status as UNESCO world heritage site is also closely linked to the city’s demise as a major trade port. Nearing the end of the 19th century, alongside the demise of the Nguyen lords, Hoi-An ceased to function as a major harbour. An important reason for this was the fact that the river alongside which Hoi-An is situated silted up at it’s river mouth making it almost impossible for ships to reach the city. While this meant that trading with Hoi-An ceased, it also meant that the city was largely sheltered from outside influences. Because of this most of the city has remained almost untouched since it started functioning as a major port and many of the buildings dating back to this period still remain standing. This makes Hoi-an one of the only cities in Vietnam with an almost fully preserved “old town” with many of the old homes and warehouses still standing and accessible to the public.

Blog 4 Vietnam 04

While the land-based cultural heritage of Hoi-An is under strict protection, the same cannot be said regarding the underwater cultural heritage. Vietnam’s underwater cultural heritage is still an underrated aspect of Vietnamese society and is commonly subjected to looting, salvaging and natural degradation. The main reason for this is because the underwater cultural heritage does not draw nearly as many visitors to the country as the land based cultural heritage does, and therefore does not bring in enough money to warrant a protected status.

Blog 4 Vietnam 05

The Vietnam Maritime Archaeology project hopes to change this carelessness regarding the underwater cultural heritage by showing what sort of cultural wealth is hidden underwater. The city of Hoi-An is a perfect base of operations for this as it is easily accessible from all over the world and has a lot to thank to its underwater cultural heritage. Furthermore, Hoi-An has many museums showcasing the treasures found underwater. Finally, the city is also an important hub for our project as not does it have its own underwater cultural heritage, it is also relatively easy to access a plethora of other different sites from the Hoi-An harbour. With the Cham islands being one of our most important dive-sites, only 30 minutes by boat away from the harbour.

Blog 4 Vietnam 06

Hopefully this project will manage to garner attention for Vietnam’s (And specifically Hoi-An’s) underwater cultural heritage by showing the country what it has to offer which can then in turn be used to educate a new generation of archaeologists and cultural heritage specialists.

Greetings from Hoi-An,

Mike de Booij

Vietnam maritime archaeology project: Day 4-5, to Bai Lang and beyond

While the first 3 days were spent practicing our diving skills and getting comfortable in the water, Day 4 and 5 marked the beginning of our scientific approach to maritime archaeology. This is a process that will be developed and perfected over the coming weeks to make our work better, easier, and hopefully create a new generation of (Vietnamese) maritime archaeologists.

The first dives were performed at Bai Lang, where our main wreck site is. As mentioned before, Bai Lang is a beautiful, historic bay on the main island and this is where we attempted to set up our first research area. These “research areas” consist out of squares marked by buoys and GPS coordinates and are mainly used for surveys. Setting up these areas helps us in marking which regions we have already surveyed as to avoid redundancy. However, the beauty of the bay means that many tourists in speedboats visit the region, creating a safety hazard for our divers. It was therefore decided that we would continue to work in Bai Lang at a later stage and for now go to a nearby bay just around the corner. As this area had no name (or we just didn’t know its name) it was spontaneously dubbed “around the corner of Bai Lang bay”.

Setting up a research area with the GPS
Setting up a research area with the GPS
“Around the corner of Bai Lang bay” much resembles a less touristic version of Bai Lang bay. This does also mean that it is likely that there is less evidence of human activity in this area. However, the presence of a small, ancient temple along with pillboxes from the Vietnam war indicates that there is still plenty of (maritime)archaeology to be found here. An added bonus is that the island is also a military base which increases the likelihood that any possible archaeology has not been plundered yet.

An important part in setting up an underwater survey is setting up the baseline. This makes redundancy less likely and stops people from getting lost underwater. Furthermore, a measuring-tape is laid out so people know where they left off in their previous dive and thus know where to start on their next dive. This proved to be a tricky undertaking as many people, experienced as they are with diving, had little experience in using tools underwater or effectively tying water resistant knots. After we got most of the basic requirements out of the way it was time to start the first circular surveys. These initial circular surveys yielded some interesting results. A set of circular ballast stones was found and this at least proves that we are searching in the right area.

Setting up the baseline
Setting up the baseline
A circular ballast stone
A circular ballast stone
Another important process that we started at the end of this week was the GPS mapping of the bay. By taking coordinates of certain points along the bay, alongside a rough sketch, it becomes easier to keep track of where certain objects are found so we can find them again in the future. As this can be done from the surface, this was mostly done by divers who were on their surface interval to increase our efficiency.

One of the divers mapping the bay
One of the divers mapping the bay
After a week of mostly training and getting used to the circumstances these final 2 days showed great promise and created a perfect starting point for us to fully kick-start the project next week. Hopefully this means that the discovery of many interesting sites will follow!

Greetings from Hoi-An,


Hoi-An fieldschool day 3: Cham marine park diving session

Today marked a big step for this year’s Vietnam maritime archaeology project, namely: the first (archaeological) dives and surveys. After spending the first 2 days getting acclimatised and testing the diving skills of all the participants, the time had finally come to head out to open sea.

The main diving sites for this project will be near the Vietnamese island group of Cu Lao Cham, also known as the Cham islands. The Cham islands are located just east off the coast of the city of Hoi-An and the whole area is a protected UNESCO biosphere reserve. The main and only inhabited island of the Cham islands is Hon Lao and this island will therefore be the main focus of the project at this stage.

Blog 2 Vietnam 02

The geological layout of the bay of Hon Lao, in which the island its main harbour is situated, creates a “death-trap” for ships anchored there during a typhoon and heavy winds. This means that suddenly changing tides and weather conditions can cause large numbers of ships to sink here, especially during the historical period. These ships often contain a plethora of information regarding the different foreign trading parties that would visit the Cham islands. It is up to us to retrieve the information that sank along with these ships.

Blog 2 Vietnam 03

At approximately 10:00 AM the first team of divers exited the ship to test the waters and start the first archaeological survey of this year’s project. The main approach that will be used for surveying during this project is the swim-line search. Which is basically a team of divers that are spread out alongside a rope, surveying a large area at the same time. This technique was not used today however due to the it being the first day and therefore the different diving teams still need to grow accustomed to each-other.

Blog 2 Vietnam 04

Instead of using the swim-line search, today’s dives consisted mainly out of a free swim survey which, while not the most efficient technique, also came up with a number of results. The most noteworthy of which was a large anchor found in relatively shallow water (>6 meter). While these  finds are not necessarily always what you are looking for, they can serve as base or starting points for future surveys and it is therefore important to document the coordinates/exact location of where they are found.

Blog 2 Vietnam 01

Whilst the more experienced divers were already out at sea conducting surveys, some of the PADI-trainees experienced their first open sea dive today, with the rest of the PADI –trainees following tomorrow. Once these trainees are done with their PADI courses by the end of this week they can join the rest of the group in conducting underwater-surveys and will hopefully be valuable assets for the project!

Once again, greetings from Hoi-An.

Mike de Booij

Pictures by: Ian Mccan and Wongsakorn Rahothan

Day 1: Start of the international maritime archaeology training in Vietnam

Today marks the start of the Vietnam Maritime Archaeology Project (VMAP), taking place in the historic city of Hoi-An. The project is an attempt at promoting the Vietnamese (maritime) cultural heritage among not just the Vietnamese population itself but across all of the participating countries. With about 30 participants from all over the world this truly is an international project. However, promoting Vietnamese heritage is not the only goal of this project. It also aims to train a new generation of (mostly young) students for a possible future as maritime archaeologists.

Blog 1 Vietnam 02

After most of the participants of this project had become acquainted with one another, the group was split up into two smaller groups. The first (and largest) group consisted  of participants  that already possessed a valid diving certificate. The second group consisted of trainees that would spend their first week training to become a certified PADI open water diver.

The first group started their day off with a sightseeing tour of Hoi-An. During this tour they were shown the rich cultural heritage of the city, as well as its museums, restaurants, and other places of interest which could be useful during their time in this city. After this tour ended, the project was officially opened in one of the most impressive museums of Hoi-An with a speech by Mark Staniforth, the project leader. The opening of the project was of course followed by a group picture of all the participants that were present.

After the opening ceremony and lunch, the group went back to the hotel swimming pool to undergo a mandatory diving check-up under the watchful eye of Sri-Lankan diver Rasika. Check-ups like this play an important role in the safety of the participants as it shows any weaknesses the participants might have before they continue  into the deep open waters.

Blog 1 Vietnam 05

At the same time, in another part of the town, a group of 6 PADI-trainees started their first courses on how to become a certified PADI diver. As they have no experience with diving, their first day consisted of a number of theory classes and videos, followed by questionnaires, which would give them an impression of what rules they will have to follow to become a certified diver.

Blog 1 Vietnam 06

When everyone returned to the hotel, the day ended with a communal dinner followed by a mandatory debriefing in which the participants were placed in different groups, all tasked with different objectives. Furthermore, the project’s schedule for the upcoming week was also announced before everyone was free to leave.

About the project

The Maritime Programme and the Shared Cultural Heritage programme of the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) support this project to build a strong foundation for knowledge, research, policy, cooperation and education. Students will be trained in management, research and protection of the underwater archaeology. One of the aims is to develop awareness of, and capacity building of underwater archaeology in the Asiatic Region. We consider it a good follow up to the training sessions that were held between 2009 and 2012 in Chanthaburi, Thailand (see The lectures follow the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage and are based on the training manual for the UNESCO foundation course on the protection and management of underwater cultural heritage in Asia and the Pacific: We are delighted that the Institute of Archaeology (IA) in Hanoi will be hosting the training and that the training is organised and supported by SEAMEO SPAFA and the UNESCO underwater heritage-training programme.

For more pictures and information on this project, please follow us at:

Greetings from Hoi-An,

Mike de Booij