First off, I’d like to thank Doctor Hrvoje Potrebica for opening my eyes to the fascinating subject of underwater archaeology. Going into the good doctor’s lecture, I did not know what to expect from examining a bunch of old shipwrecks. As it turns out, however, underwater antiquity sites are just as rich in culture and history as their aboveground counterparts. A lot can be learned by examining the remnants of old ships, or cargo lost at sea, or old harbors and portside buildings that have long since been overtaken by the sea. Overall, I’m glad that I attended Dr. Potrebica’s lecture, as it really made me consider a lot about archaeology in ways I never would have considered before.
I can imagine, since the Adriatic Sea is a pretty big place, that one problem with finding an old shipwreck or cache of lost cargo would be determining where it came from or who it belonged to. This is a problem unique to underwater archaeology, as even with trade routes above ground you can use physical clues to tell where it belonged or where it may have been going to or coming from. Doctor Potrebica covered this scenario briefly, showing off a chart of different unique amphora shapes that have been categorized over the years. I think it’s fascinating how they can use the form and shape of the amphorae recovered in a cache to determine where they were made, and then use that information to determine where the shipment was coming from, or perhaps going to. With the sheer amount of trade routes going on in the Adriatic Sea- especially those going to and form the Roman empire, it’s astounding that archaeologists are able to use such techniques to narrow it down to that extent.
Doctor Potrebica even described one situation where a ship’s bell was found intact with the year inscribed on its surface. Using similar techniques to those described above, the port of origin for the shipment was determined and historians are looking through old records to see if they can determine the name of this individual vessel. Perhaps they will then be able to use this information to extrapolate on trade and the relationships between ancient states in the medieval era.
These aquatic archaeological expeditions are also helping us determine new information about more modern wrecks. A World War 1 battleship or an American heavy bomber plane can serve to teach us about more recent history, and to recover precious artefacts that may be worth something a bit more sentimental to the families of those who may have died and were never recovered.
All in all, I’m glad I attended the lecture with an open mind. Underwater archaeology is a very interesting field with a lot of potential to uncover the secrets of the past.