Ypie Attema

On behalf of the Netherlands Department for Conservation, I propose that the World Heritage Site at Galle Fort should be developed into a major restoration centre.

In developing Galle into a major heritage site and a small-scale tourist destination, restoration activities can play an important role: for instance in on-the-job
training of local craftsmen and in familiarising the public with old buildings and crafts. An approach combining restoration activities, special technical training, and the raising of public awareness, could be a pilot project with a strong multiplier effect, not only for Galle Fort and its surroundings, but also for the revitalization of other historic sites in Sri Lanka.

If we want to develop Galle Fort as a place of major historic interest, we have to formulate valid arguments for the character the Fort should exhibit. Should we stress one single period, or would it be better to show the history and development of Galle Fort through the ages?
There are many important questions to be answered: for instance, on what information should a restoration be based and which building materials should be used? To answer such questions, the objects themselves are the best guide, in combination of course with written and other sources.

Restoration activities can function very well as technical training programmes for architects and craftsmen and can educate the public at the same time. The Netherlands has valuable experience with these training programmes, which focus on four major objectives: education of craftsmen in the field of restoration; rehabilitation of objects of cultural and historical value; integrated urban heritage management (town renewal approach); strengthening of social-economic infrastructure and housing and infrastructural strengthening for tourism and recreation.

Within this framework, many worthwhile monuments have been restored in the Netherlands during the last ten years, including churches, houses, a station, several water and wind sawmills and a factory which produces bricks for restoration purposes. In Sri Lanka there is also some experience with this type of training-on-the-job: in Galle Fort the restoration of the pulpit in the Dutch Church has been carried out as a training project of craftsmen.

Decisions also have to be taken regarding the building materials to be used: bricks, tiles, plaster, mortar or concrete? Each has specific qualities which must be taken into account. Climate must be considered: different building materials are required in a damp and salty climate than in dry conditions.
For future restoration in Galle Fort, there are specific questions on the use of materials:  Which common materials should be used?  What special treatment do they need in this climate?  Which modern, alternative, durable and low-maintenance materials can be utilized? and, very importantly:  Do these materials harmonize with the original or desirable character of Galle Fort?.


To answer these questions we have to research the original building materials in relation to the specific climate of Galle. Ideally the outcome of these investigations should be stored in a databank. Data gathered during archaeological fieldwork, or the results of technical documentation and dendro-chronological research, should be stored likewise.
A databank on the research and building activities in Galle Fort could also provide useful information for restoration projects elsewhere in the country.

Once a building has been conserved or restored, it has to be kept in good shape. At the first stage of developing plans and budgets for restoration, one must take into account the costs for short, medium and long-term maintenance. Prevention is better than cure.
This is the motto of the Monumentenwacht, a successful Dutch organization which, on the basis of an annual subscription, carries out regular inspection of buildings and repairs small defects. Larger repairs have to be done by regular contractors. At present, around 12,000 out of 50,000 monuments in the Netherlands have joined this valuable organization.

While developing Galle Fort into a major heritage site and small-scale tourist centre, it can also become an important centre for craftsmanship and education. This would make a valuable contribution to the development and activation of restoration integrated conservation activities throughout the country.


Robert Parthesius

As shown during this seminar, the city of Galle and its harbour have an extensive reservoir of heritage sites dating from around the 10th century (stone anchors) to the present day. Due to its strategic position in the Indian Ocean, Galle has served for many years as a junction of cultures. The presence of these cultures is seen by traces left in the city and on the sea bed. The Dutch left a significant impression in Galle: the fort as a complete city formed in the 17th and 18th century, five East Indiamen in or around the harbour and an extensive Dutch archive in the National Archives in Colombo.

The potential to use these ‘cultural resources’ for training, research and presentation purposes is obvious. Over the years several projects have been initiated based on this gold mine of information. During this seminar you have been introduced to some of these projects, and plans relating to the cultural heritage sites in Galle.

The Galle Harbour Project has located and surveyed over twenty sites of archaeological importance since 1992. In 1996 and 1997 some small-scale excavations have been carried out. In 1992, 1993, and 1997, groups of Sri Lankan archaeologists have been trained in maritime archaeology and conservation. The Conservation Laboratory, located on the import jetty, is nearly completed.

In previous years small projects have been carried out, focusing on the many monuments in the fort; one example is the restoration of the pulpit in the Dutch Church. The primary goal in this particular project was to establish restoration know-how in Sri Lanka through on-the-job training. This expertise can be used in future for preserving other monuments.

The Black Fort proposal echoes this objective and adds another: the presentation of the past to the general public.

Training is important to develop the skills to research and preserve Sri Lankan heritage. Equally important is the ability to explain and exhibit the past to the general public. Public awareness will lead to general support for this important work, especially if the local economy benefits from cultural tourism.Figure 19. Plan drawing of a VOC ship around 1680. The Avondster is preserved to this deck, (Alg. Rijksarchief, The Hague).



To achieve these goals for heritage sites in and around Galle, it is important to work as much as possible in co-operation: locally, nationally and internationally. In order to profit from each others’ experiences and skills, and to avoid duplication of infrastructure, it has been suggested that a field school be established. The general philosophy would be to have a co-ordinating centre for research, reporting, training and presentation activities. The field school would be involved in a range of disciplines including maritime archaeology, heritage management, material conservation, historical research, etc.

Within the Galle Harbour Project a field school of this kind has evolved. As you have heard today, an extensive programme of research and training has been established. The laboratory in Galle will be a permanent centre for further research and training in the conservation of maritime artefacts. After this expedition we hope to have a team of diving researchers with the basic skills for maritime archaeology. To extend the programme with other areas of research and training, such as heritage management or restoration techniques important for the other projects, we hope to set up a small education centre including a library, workshop room and housing facilities for students and scholars.


It is important to develop various forms of presentation. For the Galle Harbour Project we can think about several. First there should be written reports and newsletters.

The laboratory on the import jetty near the old gate is an important step to show the maritime heritage to the general public. Through organised tours, visitors can see conservation work in progress on objects from the shipwrecks in the harbour. The cleaning of the stone anchors next to the Maritime Museum is the first open presentation of finds from the sea bed.

After conservation, the objects and associated information should be moved to the Maritime Museum. A permanent display supplemented with temporary exhibitions should do justice to the important maritime history of Galle and its role in the ancient trade routes.Figure 20. The Avondster site 50 metres off Marine Drive, the fort in the background.

A very tempting idea is to set up a whole chain of presentations around the maritime archaeological activities in the harbour. The natural starting point would be the excavation. Normally this is difficult in the case of underwater work, but it is not impossible. The wreck of the VOC ship Avondster provides us with an unusual opportunity to integrate the excavation work into a public presentation. The ship is in remarkably good condition up to the main deck. The wreck is in shallow water, only 50 metres off Marine Drive. A simple jetty would allow the wreck to be accessed from the shore. Seeing actual work in progress on site has always proved very popular with visitors. In my vision locale guides can organise tours for cultural tourists around the various heritage sites.

The Dutch invested heavily for their own profit in the 17th century and the ships and infrastructure which they financed are now a most valuable asset for the community of Galle and for Sri Lanka. Cultural profit, scientific profit, and commercial profit should go hand-in-hand.Figure 21. Recording the galley on the Avondster site.

Jeremy Green

INTRODUCTION The Galle Harbour project has made a considerable achievement in the development of understanding of Indian Ocean port cities. We have evidence of trade from early times to the modern day. Shipwrecks abound in the harbour. The project is at an important turning point for the development of maritime archaeology as a discipline in Sri Lanka. There are a number of objectives still to be achieved and there are a number of initiatives that need to be developed over the next three years. Firstly there is a need to complete the survey work in the east part of the harbour; the conservation laboratory needs to be finished; further exploration of other parts of the inner harbour is required; the Avondster site requires further investigation and the development of a management plan; the known but as yet undiscovered VOC shipwreck sites need to be located and further exploration of the outer harbour is required.

THE EASTERN HARBOUR SURVEY The survey of the eastern part of the harbour was partially completed in October–November 1997, however, at the end of the season some magnetometer targets were uninvestigated and some magnetometer survey work is still to be completed. The presence of large iron wreck sites in the eastern part of the harbour have made it difficult to identify the VOC shipwrecks thought to have been lost in this area. Further careful magnetometer survey, together with the use of high resolution PC Side-scan Sonar may make the location of the sites possible. For the present, however, the eastern part of the harbour has only been partially examined.

THE CONSERVATION LABORATORY The Conservation Laboratory should be completed by the end of 1997, until this facility is complete, it is not possible to conduct any major archaeological excavation work in Galle. The facility will be an extremely useful part of any maritime archaeological programme in Sri Lanka and will help to establish Galle a centre for maritime archaeological studies.

FURTHER SURVEY OF INNER HARBOUR The area close to the Black Fort and know to be a lightering point merits further investigation. To date this site has yielded five stone anchors, raising interesting issues relating to dating and use. We know that a bronze statue was found in the same area by local divers and the whole area is covered with large quantities of artefacts of various periods. The area merits a thorough archaeological survey, firstly to delineate the extent of the site and then to determine the depth of burial of the material. This area is likely to be of particular interest because it was, traditionally, the anchoring site for Galle. Since Galle, until the construction of the Fisheries Harbour, did not have a quay, all loading and unloading was by carried out by lighters. It is very likely that there is material dating from before European presence in the Indian Ocean.

THE AVONDSTER SITE Certainly the most exciting underwater archaeological site in Galle, this site has enormous potential. Being within 50 m of the Marine Drive, excavation of the site can be shore-based. With adequate funding, the site could be excavated dry within a coffer dam. The site is exceptionally well preserved and known to contain material of considerable interest. It could also be the focus of a ‘cultural tourism’ programme, linking the excavation site with the Maritime Museum and the city of Galle. As indicated above by Parthesius, a detailed survey of this site is required together with the development of a management plan for the site.
We know from the archival research that there are at least three other unlocated wrecks in the harbour. It may well be that these sites are as well preserved as the Avondster. Future survey work will help to locate and identify these sites. The maritime archaeological legislation proceeding through Parliament at present will ensure the protection of these sites in the future. There is no doubt that Galle has a unique place in the history of the VOC, particularly because of the number of shipwrecks.

TRAINING With the development of the maritime archaeological training programme, it is likely that in the near future there will be a small maritime archaeological unit in Sri Lanka. Within the next few years it may be possible to undertake an advanced training programme to develop and extend the existing skills within Sri Lanka. Furthermore, given the facilities and expertise available, it could be possible for Sri Lanka to become a regional training centre for Indian Ocean and Southeast Asian countries. Such a training centre and programme would be particularly opportune, given that Thailand no longer operates an Asian maritime archaeological training programme. The diversity of sites that Galle has to offer, the extent of cross-disciplinary interests, the international interest and involvement makes this an attractive and exciting proposal.Figure 22. The November 1997 GIS plot of the survey work in Galle Harbour.


S.U. Deraniyagala Director General of Archaeology
Gihan Jayatilaka Advisor Maritime Archaeology for the Department of Archaeology, Sub-Aqua Club and Maritime Heritage Trust
Jeremy Green Western Australian Maritime Museum, Australian National Centre of Excellence in Maritime Archaeology
Robert Parthesius University of Amsterdam
Rukshan Amal Jayewardene Archaeologist, Trainee Maritime Archaeology
Jon Carpenter Department of Conservation, Western Australian Maritime Museum.
Nerina de Silva Conservator, Consultant Galle Harbour Project
Somaseri Devendra Senior advisor Galle Harbour Project
Lodewijk Wagenaar Amsterdam Historical Museum
Ypie Attema Netherlands Department for Conservation

Ms Drs Ypie Attema Netherlands Department of Conservation
Mr Patrick Baker Western Australian Maritime Museum
Ms Claire Barnes Volunteer, Galle Harbour Project
Mr Jon Carpenter Dept of Conservation, Western Australian Maritime Museum.
Mr W.M. Chandraratne Central Cultural Fund
Mr Tom Dawson Department of Archaeology
Mr A.M.A. Dayananda Central Cultural Fund
Dr S.U. Deraniyagala Director-General of Archaeology
Lt-Cdr Somasiri Devendra Senior advisor Galle Harbour Project
Dr Malimi Dias Director of Epigraphy and Numismatics, Department of Archaeology
Ms Indrani Fernando Department of Archaeology
Ms Jinky Gardner Dept of Underwater Archaeology, East Carolina University
Mr Mike Gardner Ms Dena Garratt Western Australian Maritime Museum
Mr George Green Volunteer, Galle Harbour Project, WA Maritime Museum
Prof Jeremy Green Western Australian Maritime Museum
Mr Gihan Jayatilaka Advisor Maritime Archaeology for the Department of Archaeology, Sub-Aqua Club and Maritime Heritage Trust
Mr Rukshan Jayewardene Archaeologist; Trainee in Maritime Archaeology
Mr D. Kandamby National Maritime Museum, Galle
Mr Indrajith Kuruppu former member of Galle Harbour Project
Mr Sirinimal Lakdusinghe Director, Department of National Museums
Dr K.D. Paranavitanai Department of National Archives
Drs Robert Parthesius University of Amsterdam
Mr Asoka Perera Post-Graduate Institute of Archaeology
H.E. Mr H.C.R.M. Princen Ambassador of the Netherlands
Mrs L. Princen Mr K.D.S. Silva Post-Graduate Institute of Archaeology
Ms Nerina de Silva Conservator, Consultant Galle Harbour Project
Ms Corioli Souter Western Australian Maritime Museum
Mr Kurarasingha Tennegedara National Museum
Ms Yola Vollebregt Netherlands Embassy
Drs Loderwijk Wagenaar Amsterdam Historical Museum
Mr Chandana Weerasena Central Cultural Fund
Mr K.D. Palita Weerasingha Central Cultural Fund
Mr Indu Weerasoori Southern Development Authority

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