Maritime heritage and archaeology

The Belgian part of the North Sea and the coastal zone have a rich collection of maritime and coastal heritage. It includes maritime archaeological heritage on land and under water, coastal landscapes with heritage value, architectural heritage typical of the coastal area, movable maritime heritage, nautical heritage and intangible maritime heritage. Not only is the quantity of historical elements notable, the distribution in time is also remarkable. For instance, remains of prehistoric mammals have been found among 19th century wrecks and warships.

As far as maritime heritage in the North Sea is concerned, it is not obvious to reserve specific space at sea for this purpose, as is the case for the other user functions. Underwater cultural heritage is given that spatial translation by the recognition and protection of 11 shipwreck sites (see GeoViewer). The Law of 23 April 2021 ensures that wrecks that have been underwater for at least 100 years are automatically given the status of underwater cultural heritage, and can therefore be protected in situ in the future.

In addition to a rich patrimony, the coastline has also undergone a strong evolution. From palaeo-landscapes with vegetation, grazed by large mammals, over a dynamic coastline with large tidal channels at the time of the Romans, to a strongly delineated rectilinear coastline as we know it today (HisGISKust). 

More information on the scientific knowledge, the socio-economic data, the legal and spatial aspects and measures concerning the sustainable use and management of the maritime heritage of the BNZ and our coastal area can be found on the website of the Compendium for Coast and Sea.

Paleo-landscapes and archaeology