Underwater Archaeology

In class, we have discussed many ways about how archaeological research is conducted. Along with this, we talked about the different types of sites that are surveyed, and how these sites are tested. Not only can archaeologists learn about human past through material culture found underground and on the surface, but much can also be learned from diving underwater. A very unique method of conducting archeological research is by doing it in the sea. Much of human history has involved the use of ships, and these can provide an interesting outlook on human history; moreover, there are many remnants of human society that are now hidden underwater as a result of thousands of years of changes in water and ground levels from volcanic activity. These underwater sites are moderately new to the field of archaeology, considering the fact that for much of history we did not have the means to study them. With the technology we now possess, it is possible to study and learn about past culture from these sites.

One such example of these sites is the Underwater Archaeology Park of Baiae. This is located in Italy, and contains many amazing remnants of a previous culture.  At this park, there are ancient mosaics, statues, pipelines, and structures persisting from the Roman age.  Since much of the remains from the city are underwater, I thought the methods of research for it would be a bit complicated.  After looking into the matter a bit, I found that the methods are very similar in regards to plotting and recording information.  I also found that excavating underwater is actually sometimes easier. Instead of shoveling and digging, underwater excavation often involves using a long hose to suck up sediment on the sea floor, which is deposited onto a screen deck that sifts for the artifacts.

I thought that all of this was very intriguing due to the fact that the precise practices and methods of archaeology are still maintained in such diverse environments. Along with this, I think it is incredible that there are remnants of human culture that can only be discovered by diving beneath the surface.

3 thoughts on “Underwater Archaeology

  1. I find under water archaeology very interesting and amazing that it is possible. The fact that archaeologist are so precise in their data collection that their methods only vary minimally throughout the diverse landscapes found above the water and only vary slightly in underwater excavation. Underwater excavation must have seemed an extremely daunting task the first time it was being done. With all the various obstacles that stand in one’s way of excavating underwater, it is truly incredible that it is able to be done with such good results. When we talked about plotting and mapping sites in class I thought about how difficult and cumbersome it must be to do in areas like swamps or rain forests, but underwater seems to take the cake. Wind can be hard to work with at times, but I imagine waves would be harder to deal with. In addition, after reading your blog post I was surprised about just how much was underwater. While I know the artifacts wouldn’t have been completely destroyed, I would have thought that underwater erosion would be more detrimental than above water erosion. So it surprised me just how much there was to discover and learn from in underwater sites.

  2. Who knew archaeologists were so cool? I’m kidding, we all knew how cool archaeologists are. Underwater archaeology does give the field some major bonus points though. I find it fascinating the wide array of environments archaeologists work under to dig up our past. We’ve seen many pictures presented during lecture of archaeologists working in sites all around the world. Deserts, rainforests, tundra.. and now underwater too?! That is what really sets archaeologists apart from other scientists in my opinion. Where many scientists work mainly in a lab, archaeologists work everywhere it seems. At least the field of archaeology itself seems to have no bounds on where it will go to uncover ancient (or not so ancient) remains.
    Specifically, underwater archaeology is an excellent example of the depths… get it? depths…anyway… these scientists will go. The fact that the methods stay basically the same though sort of surprises me as well. The ability to maintain the same level of precision while wearing heavy scuba gear takes skill.
    I’m very happy, though, that we do have archaeologists that are willing to go those extremes. The remains they find underwater are probably essential to learning about many aspects of our past. Sunken ships that tell the stories of spice traders or pirates. Underwater cities such as the one you mentioned in Italy. I’m sure it is all under there, waiting for these underwater archaeologists to uncover.

  3. I find under water archaeology to be so interesting for some reason. Maybe it is because it’s discovering something that was completely covered by not only sediment, but water as well. It is a little easier to understand how artifacts and sites get buried under layers of dirt, but for the earth to change so much that it is able to cover an entire structure with water, is absolutely amazing to me.

    Before under water archaeology was mentioned in class I had totally or failed to realize that the people I am watching on the History or Discovery channel uncovering artifacts under water are mostly archaeologists. The first type of under water sites that came to mind were ship wrecks, more specifically The Titanic. The Titanic is one of the most famous ship wrecks and as a result there are also numerous programs about it on these two channels all the time. I have watched a few different programs about scientists making new discoveries and showing them excavating the site. Just like you had mentioned I remember seeing people under water with a long hose that sucked up the sediment. Just like we had learned in class, there were people (archaeologist) screening the sediment under water for any artifacts that could tell them more about the ship and the people on that ship.

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