Sweden’s Heritage Conservation Act is the most important law on cultural heritage management. Its origins date back to the 17th century, making it the world’s oldest law governing the protection of ancient monuments and the relics that belong to them. The act also applies to ancient remains in or adjacent to water.

The Heritage Conservation Act states that:

• It is important that we protect and manage our country’s cultural heritage, and we all share the responsibility for doing so.
• The county administrative boards are charged with cultural heritage management at the county level, and the Swedish National Heritage Board at the national level.
• Ancient remains are remnants of human activity from ancient times that have been abandoned indefinitely.
• Shipwrecks are considered ancient remains if the ship sank before 1850. But even ships that sank after that year can be considered ancient remains if they are of particular interest.
• It is forbidden to dislodge, remove, excavate, cover or in any other way alter or damage relics.
• The Heritage Conservation Act protects not just known ancient remains, but those that have not yet been found.

Scuba diving on wrecks

Wreck diving is generally allowed, but divers are not allowed to touch, alter or cause damage to a wreck. A diving ban can be used to prohibit diving near wrecks that have a unique cultural heritage value in order to reduce wear and tear. Diving companies offer diving experiences to scuba divers at designated wrecks.

Building in or adjacent to water

Contact your county administrative board at an early stage if you intend to build an extension, perform dredging, install a dock, lay cables or similar. In these cases, archaeological investigations might need to be conducted or special measures taken to protect any ancient remains.