Introduction to Maritime Archaeology

For hundreds of years divers have been discovering treasures and bringing them up from the sea. Today archaeologists can excavate at depths that once would have been impossible to do. The use of sophisticated technology has enabled the archaeologist to bring us exiting and valuable knowledge about our past.

Maritime Archeology is a term used for the study of underwater archaeological remains. Sometimes the discipline is also called, Nautical Archeology or Underwater Archeology. These terms refer to the medium in which the areas of interest are mostly found, although shipwrecks out of water are still classified as having a maritime or nautical connection.

Due to the instability and potential environmental damage to underwater artifacts when they are brought to the surface, the underwater archaeological site will only be excavated if it has the potential to give important answers to research questions or which are in jeopardy because of redevelopment proposals.

Therefore most of the work of maritime archaeologists does not involve excavation, but concentrates on surveying maritime sites, assessing the value of a potential archaeological areas, and recording and analyzing important finds’. It will be the work of historians, biologists, materials conservators, photographers, surveyors, geologists and technicians to interpret meaning from the context of what is found interred beneath the sea. This will include a spatial and stratigraphic layering of cultural remains as well as an interpretation of the shape and composition of the artifacts.

The study of underwater archaeological sites aim to provide a better understanding of our past history. Although the fragility of some first degree sources can be seen to be delicate and of limited worth if brought to the surface, it is important to try to preserve such antiquities as they still relates to real people and real places in time.

Studying these underwater artifacts can help to further our understanding of both ancient civilizations, or of cultures from more recent times. We learn how people in the past interacted with the sea, lakes and rivers through the analysis of shipwrecks, cargoes, human remains and submerged landscapes and settlements.