Navigating History: Unveiling the Maritime Cultural Heritage of Martinique through ecoRoute – Insights from the AAPA Presentation at the AREBIO Conference, Fort-de-France Lycée de Bellevue

On 8th of December 2023, ecoRoute project was presented by AAPA (Prof. Jean-Sébastien Guibert) at the AREBIO conference, which took place at Fort-de-France Lycée de Bellevue, Martinique. More specifically, the project was presented through a paper entitled: Épave de Martinique et d’ailleurs : de l’histoire et du patrimoine à un projet touristique culturel et naturel durable : le cas d’ecoRoute en Martinique by Jean-Sébastien Guibert (AAPA) The idea behind the paper presentation, was the description of the ecoRoute project focusing on Martinique within the context of state of research on UWCH of West Indies.  Ancient shipwrecks are maritime cultural assets and as such are protected by the French Heritage Code. They represent a rich source for the maritime history and archaeology of the West Indies. Studying them allows us to look at the history of the West Indies through the prism of the sea, and thus to restore a certain sense of maritime identity to the territories of the West Indies, which are often considered, rather hastily, as turning their backs on the sea. These sites can be linked to the struggle for Caribbean space, trade, coastal shipping and so on.  Underwater remains also represent a specific tangible, or even intangible, heritage that needs to be explored: invisible to most people, shipwrecks are not very accessible to the uninitiated, but they are very much part of the Caribbean memory. There are many examples of this, from the myth of Manman Dlo to sites linked to the memory of the slave trade, such as Anse Cafard. Lastly, the wrecks will be examined as a tourist asset in terms of their possible development as part of various projects, including the ecoRoute project, funded by the European Commission and implemented in Martinique by the Association Archéologie Petites Antilles (AAPA) and Deep Turtle Plongée (DTP) as part of a consortium of international partners also from Greece, France, Portugal, Azores and Madeira. For the case of Martinique, the idea is to create a tourist product based on the shipwrecks in and around Saint Pierre. The presentation was attended by approx. 80 persons while there was an option to attend it online.