Mauritius launches archaeological project for shipwreck site of Saint Géran

Mauritius: The project entitled, ‘The transdisciplinary delineation of the archaeological perimeter associated with the shipwreck site of Saint Géran in 1744’, was launched today, at the University of Mauritius (UoM), as a continuity to the research undertaken by Dr Jean Yves Blot in 1979.

Mauritius: The project entitled, ‘The transdisciplinary delineation of the archaeological perimeter associated with the shipwreck site of Saint Géran in 1744’, was launched today, at the University of Mauritius (UoM), as a continuity to the research undertaken by Dr Jean Yves Blot in 1979.

On this occasion, the Minister of Blue Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping, Mr Sudheer Maudhoo, and the Minister of Arts and Cultural Heritage, Mr Avinash Teeluck, were present.

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The project aims at using very-high-resolution (VHR) satellite imagery to define the spatial interface between the marine surge, the hard-coral environment, the respective submarine landscape, and their connection with the ship scatter remains of 1744.

In his keynote address, Minister Maudhoo recalled that the Saint Géran went aground on the North East fringing reef on 18 August 1744, causing the loss of some 200 passengers. “The shipwreck site was first discovered in 1966 by fishermen residing around Port-Louis,” he said, adding that Dr Jean Yves Blot and his late wife carried out the first archaeological mission on the remaining shipwreck site in collaboration with the Mauritius Institute and the Mauritius Commission to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

He indicated that the project, being undertaken by the UoM in collaboration with Nova University Lisbon, would help students to get acquainted with an interesting and rich form of heritage that could provide long-term opportunities for cultural and recreational tourism and sustainable development. “The project,” he added, “represents an excellent opportunity to promote cultural heritage tourism in Mauritius.”

The Minister requested the UoM to undertake more research on shipwrecks and publish important materials to encourage people, especially tourists, to come and visit those areas, thereby further developing the blue economy.

He appealed for collective efforts to restore historical sites at Île de la Passe and Île au Phare while emphasising that activity to preserve and restore the cultural heritage of the Republic should be initiated.

As for Minister Teeluck, he spoke of the linking aspects of the shipwreck of Saint Géran, namely colonisation, ship trade and commercialisation, slavery and slave trade. He commended the team for this project which shed further light on the history of the shipwreck of Saint Géran, which had left its traces throughout Mauritian history and literature.

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He underlined that it was important to retrace history as new elements were always being added to the heritage. “Our survival depends on how to define our future”, he said. He also dwelt on three new national heritage sites, namely Bassin des Esclaves, Pamplemousses; Marché aux Esclaves, Pamplemousses; and Sattiram (Satron) Building at Sainte Croix.

The Minister called for the help and expertise of the UoM for the restoration of the wrecks from the Battle of Grand Port.