SHA Award of Merit

Celebrating the very best of Collaboration in Protecting Underwater Cultural Heritage

Awardees: Toni Carrell, Dolores Elkin, Margaret Leshikar-Denton, and Pilar Luna Erreguerena

On January 6, 2016 the ACUA and the SHA awarded Toni Carrell, Dolores Elkin, Margaret Leshikar-Denton, and Pilar Luna Erreguerena the Society for Historical Archaeology Award of Merit, for their tireless efforts to engage the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) and the Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology (ACUA) with the negotiations for the drafting of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, and for their continued efforts to promote ratification and implementation. Established in 1988, the SHA Award of Merit recognizes specific achievements of individuals and organizations that have furthered the cause of historical archaeology.

The awardees have demonstrated a decades-long passion for preserving and protecting the underwater cultural heritage. Their efforts specifically over the last 15 years facilitated the creation and development of UNESCO Committees within SHA and ACUA. The awardees have created effective partnerships towards preservation efforts, most notably in obtaining official accreditation of both the SHA and ACUA as Non-Governmental Organizations to the Scientific and Technical Advisory Body (STAB) to the States Parties of the Convention. The recognized status of accredited NGO allows ACUA and SHA to provide technical guidance and subject matter expertise to the STAB, which is responsible for development and implementation of the Operational Guidelines for the Convention. The nominees’ efforts have ensured that the SHA and ACUA are internationally recognized supporters of this pivotal international agreement, and stewards of the underwater cultural heritage.

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L-R: Kim Faulk, Pilar Luna, Toni Carrell, Peggy Leshikar-Denton, Dolores Elkin, Amanda Evans

The awardees have spent their combined careers in the United States, the Caribbean, Mexico, and Argentina working tirelessly to discover, study, and protect submerged cultural heritage despite a patchwork of laws that all too often failed to adequately protect the sites in question. With the UNESCO Convention, the nominees saw an opportunity to create a stronger framework that would develop better protections for underwater sites globally. Some of their contributions to date include:
• Representing the SHA and ACUA during Convention negotiations.
• Supporting ratification and implementation of the Convention by increasing awareness
o Co-organizing thematic conference events pertaining to the UNESCO2001 Convention at SHA, as well as the Archaeology Institute of America annual conference, and the World Archaeology Congress.
o Written, co-authored, and/or edited numerous publications specific to the UNESCO 2001 Convention.
o Participated in regional UNESCO meetings and workshops specific to the Convention.
• Supporting implementation of the Convention
o Representing their respective governments at Meetings of the States Parties during Convention negotiations.
o Serving as delegates to the Scientific and Technical Advisory Body.

The awardees were embarrassed by individual recognition of their achievements, because they have consistently focused on protection of the underwater cultural heritage as a collaborative effort best accomplished through partnerships. Their award was intended to specifically recognize their persistent work in support of the Convention. They have been instrumental in recruiting, mentoring, assisting, and supporting other members within SHA and ACUA in undertaking activities in support of the Convention, including people such as Past President LuAnn DeCunzo, former ACUA Chairs Matt Russell and Marc-Andre Bernier, SHA Board Member and UNESCO Committee Chair Amanda Evans, and current ACUA Chair Kimberly Faulk.

The awardees have leveraged the combined strength of the ACUA and SHA into a powerful voice for positive change on a global stage. In the 16 years since the Convention was first drafted, and the six years since it entered into force, the Convention has been used in Haiti, Madagascar, and Panama to protect the cultural patrimony of countries who are still creating and implementing their own heritage management infrastructure.

The awardees’ tireless efforts, skilled oratory, and unending passion for our shared underwater cultural heritage have created a lasting legacy that will encourage the study of underwater sites globally, for generations to come. Their inability to watch quietly from the sidelines as sites were demolished and looted has created a new space for underwater archaeologists to study and preserve the past.

To date all four nominees continue to serve the ACUA and the SHA. The collective efforts of Toni Carrell, Dolores Elkin, Margaret Leshikar-Denton, and Pilar Luna Erreguerena represent the best of what the SHA and ACUA can do when working together to protect our shared underwater cultural heritage.

Kimberly L. Faulk, Chair
Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology

Amanda M. Evans, Chair
SHA UNESCO Committee