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Património Cultural

Nautical and Underwater Archaeology

Nautical and underwater archaeology is a branch of archaeology resorting to techniques of access to the underwater environment. Archaeology and underwater heritage seen, in turn, as a scientific practice and a cultural resource, have been the subject of growing concern all over the world both by the public and by public bodies with responsibilities in this area. An intervention management emerged all over the world as an answer to the scientific and cultural challenges posed by the protection, study and enhancement of the archaeological heritage.

Public management of underwater archaeology started in Portugal in the early 1980s within the framework of the National Museum of Archaeology.   It was a pioneering experience that pooled the efforts of different personalities and institutions. It was not until 1997, however, that Portuguese archaeology went through major changes that issued from the Côa Valley stone engravings preservation movement, and led to the creation of the Nautical and Underwater Archaeology National Centre (CNANS), within the former Portuguese Institute of Archaeology.

CNANS benefited, since 1996, from one of the programme options of the Pavilion of Portugal in Lisbon’s Expo 98 associated with the Ministry of Culture. In cooperation with the Navy Academy, it promoted an International Symposium on Medieval and Modern Vessels of Ibero-Atlantic Tradition. The latest and most remarkable findings in this area were shown before some of the world’s top nautical and underwater experts.

Since then, the DGPC, through CNANS, is responsible for processes dealing with random finds, research projects and emergency situations, carrying out technical surveillance and interventions on coastal areas and providing expert opinion,  apart from developing scientific and cultural dissemination actions both on a national and international scale.

Bearing in mind that archaeology and the underwater archaeological heritage cannot be developed without the collaboration of sea users like amateur divers, CNANS has always recognised the merit and rights of those who declare their random finds, encouraged close collaboration with amateur volunteers and a close relationship with amateur divers.  An example of this was to promote access of amateur divers to normally interdicted areas.

As a consequence, underwater archaeology is no longer seen as a recreational hobby and a paradigm of the latest adventures of our time, as it has progressively become a scientific activity and a unique heritage resource.

CNANS has the following responsibilities:

·         To set down the rules governing the archaeological impact of public or private works carried out underwater.

·         To supervise and monitor the implementation of archaeological works carried out underwater.

·         To promote the safeguarding and enhancing of nautical and underwater archaeological assets, both movable and immovable, whether they have been listed or are awaiting listing, as well as non-listed assets regardless of them being located in archaeological reserves.

·         To ensure treatment of movable archaeological assets found in underwater and humid environments – CNANS Conservation and Restoration Laboratory.

·         To draw Portugal’s Archaeological Map for underwater sites.


Centro Nacional de Arqueologia Náutica e Subaquática
Rua da Manutenção, 5
T. +351 21 992 6800


Decreto-Lei que ratifica a Convenção sobre a Protecção do Património Cultural Subaquático, aprovada na XXXI Sessão da Conferência Geral da Unesco que teve lugar em Paris em 2 de Novembro de 2001 - Resolução da Assembleia da República n.º 51/2006 de 18 de julho

Património Cultural Subaquático - Decreto-Lei nº 164/97 de 27 de Junho

Utilização de detetores de metais - Lei nº 121/99, de 20 de Agosto

Circular de Documentação Digital - Trabalhos Arqueológicos

Directiva sobre apresentação de relatórios finais relativos a prospecções arqueológicas subaquáticas recorrendo ao uso de métodos geofísicos de detecção remota

Tabela de preços a praticar por serviços prestados nesta área - Despacho 20571/2009

Plano de Ordenamento do Espaço Marítimo - Discussão Pública


Trabalhos do CNANS


O Navio Português do Século XVI. Relatório das missões realizadas pela equipa portuguesa em 2008 e 2009


Ciclo de Debates "Conversas a Bordo" - A Arqueologia Náutica e Subaquática em Portugal - Museu Nacional de Arqueologia - Entre 9 de Outubro de 2014 e 12 de Fevereiro de 2015