Abstract: Where Cutting Edge Meets Cultural Heritage: Investigating Deeply Submerged Archaeological Sites


In 1872, Sir Charles Lyell noted that it was “probable that a greater number of monuments of the skill and industry of man will, in the course of the ages, be collected together in the bed of the ocean than will exist at any other time on the surface of the continents”1. In the early twentieth century a number of astonishing underwater discoveries at Antikythera, Mahdia, Marathon, and Artemision came to illustrate this insightful statement. The field of maritime archaeology, however, only truly developed as a consequence of advances in marine technology during the middle of the last century which allowed archaeologists to bring the profession’s scientific standards to the underwater environment. Now a mature, dynamic discipline, this area of study has maintained its strong association with cutting-edge advances in science and technology. Nowhere is this more visible than in one of the field’s most exciting frontiers – deep-submergence archaeology.

This lecture will trace the evolution of methodologies first utilized by the pioneer of underwater archaeology, Dr. George Bass, as they are applied today in some of the most challenging environments in the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea and elsewhere. It will concentrate on case studies tied directly to the lecturer’s research, illustrating both recent discoveries, as well as the unique parameters that apply to deep-water sites. As will be demonstrated, with our ever-increasing abilities to locate and study the monuments of the skill and industry of humankind located on the ocean floor, Charles Lyell’s words echo all the more true today. 

1Charles Lyell in "Principles of Geology," 1832, as quoted in: Muckelroy, Keith. 1978. Maritime archaeology. Cambridge University Press: London. p. 11.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Ballard, Robert. 2008. Archaeological Oceanography. Princeton University Press: Pinceton.

Soreide, Fredrik. 2011. Ships from the Depths: Deepwater Archaeology. Texas A&M University Press: College Station.

Wachsmann, Shelly. 2011. “Deep-Submergence Archaeology” in The Oxford Handbook of Maritime Archaeology edited by Alexis Catsambis, Ben Ford, and Donny L. Hamilton. Oxford University Press: New York.

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