Re: Underwater Archaeology

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Posted by Major Paul from on August 27, 1998 at 04:51:42:

In Reply to: New Archaeology posted by Indy Magnoli on August 26, 1998 at 10:46:54:

: Another option for those who want a more adventurous career in archaeology is Nautical Archaeology. It is still a new science and has an endless amount of work needing to be done. It's also closer to the old days of archaeology in that much of it is still centered around the search for artifacts and what they can tell us of history and people.

: Thanks for giving me another chance to ramble on about Archaeology.

: -Indy

: Nautical or Underwater Archaeology is a rapidly developing specialty that still holds somewhat more of the "romantic" imagery of Hollywood archaeology. There are a few schools, particularly in Florida and, I believe U. of North Carolina - Wilmington, that cater to this highly specific form of archaeology. Let's face it, the planet is mostly covered by water and there is a lot of history lying in the sediments of the world's oceans and seas. Probably the most preeminent of this type of archaeologist is Dr. Bob Ballard of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts. He's the one who discovered the Titanic, the Bismarck, and most recently, a score of sunken Roman trading vessels in the Medditeranean. He most embodies the Indy ideal of "it belongs in a museum" as he was dead set against reclaiming any items off the Titanic because he respected it as the final resting place for those killed.

If you're looking for the romantic world of undiscovered finds and unsavory characters then Underwater Archaeology is probably in your future. I got into diving because of the tales of Spanish booty along the Floriday Keys when I was growing up. But now, there is a bitter feud between those who would plunder wrecks for their monetary value (e.g. Mel Fisher and the Senora Nuestra de Atocha) and those who would seek to preserve sites/artifacts for others to appreciate (Dr. Ballard). These days I tend to side with the latter. Throw in a mix of exotic locations, dangerous diving conditions, Admiralty laws, pirates, and shark-like lawyers representing everybody and I'd say it could get as exciting as any Indy movie. But like Ballard says, if you're serious about this line of work, get used to spending 90% of your effort in old naval libraries researching texts and ships' logs. -MP

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