National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Christopher Dostal

Affiliation: Texas A&M University

Christopher Dostal is Assistant Professor with the Department of Anthropology’s Nautical Archaeology Program at Texas A&M University, where he is also the Associate Director of the Conservation Research Laboratory and Director of the Analytical Archaeology Laboratory; he is also a Faculty Fellow with the Institute of Nautical Archaeology.  He holds his degrees from Texas A&M University (Ph.D.), and the University of Colorado at Boulder.  Professor Dostal’s research interests include historical maritime archaeology of North America and Western Europe, the conservation and long-term preservation of waterlogged archaeological artifacts, preservation and documentation techniques for underwater archaeological sites, X-ray fluorescence elemental analysis of archaeological artifacts, digital imaging and 3D modeling of archaeological artifacts.  He is currently the Consulting Conservator for both the Mazarrón Shipwreck Project (Murica, Spain) and the Albania Ancient Shipwreck Project.


Between 2015-2018, construction crews excavating along the Alexandria, VA waterfront revealed the broken remains of four 18th-century wooden ships in what was once the shoreline of the Potomac River. The identity of these ships is unknown, but to study them, each ship was disarticulated and the individual timbers were laser scanned, allowing researchers to virtually reassemble the ships and develop theoretical reconstructions of how they would have looked when they were in use. These highly accurate digital timber models were also 3D printed and assembled by a master ship model maker, further informing these reconstructions. One of the four ships, excavated during the construction of the Indigo hotel, was sent to the Conservation Research Laboratory at Texas A&M University for conservation by freeze drying, a process that is currently underway. This lecture will summarize this project, give an overview of the techniques used, and present our latest findings about the ships.

Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

In 2011, construction crews excavating the site of the World Trade Center towers in Manhattan discovered the remains of a Revolution-era wooden ship, 30ft below the modern street level. Though only a fraction of the original hull survived, researchers with Texas A&M University Conservation Research Laboratory have reconstructed what the hull would have looked like through a combination of laser scanning, 3D modelling, 3D printing, and wooden modelling. The hull is currently undergoing chemical treatment to prepare the wood for conservation via one of the world’s largest archaeological freeze dryers. This lecture will cover how the ship ended up in such a surprising place, the documentation and reconstruction, and an overview of the conservation process.

Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):

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