In this video, Peter Campbell, Crystal Safadi, Thomas Dhoop and Amelia Astley discuss four trajectories for the future of maritime archaeology.
In this step Peter Campbell
, Crystal Safadi
, Thomas Dhoop
, and Amelia Astley
discuss four trajectories for the future of maritime archaeology:
- underwater technology
- applications of new scientific techniques
- public platforms for exploration.
The panel then debates what is left to find in our oceans.People
The future of maritime archaeology lies in people. Much of maritime archaeology is currently based in countries like Great Britain, the United States, and Australia, with researchers working elsewhere around the world. In parts of the world where maritime archaeology is relatively nascent, it is particularly important to encourage interest in the subject, build capacity, and essentially get more people involved. There are currently programmes in place to train archaeologists and divers in every country, such as initiatives by the Honor Frost Foundation
and the UNESCO Unitwin Underwater Archaeology Network
, as well as training by the Nautical Archaeology Society
. The key step to be undertaken is promoting local professional maritime archaeologists who are capable of managing and preserving the maritime cultural heritage of their countries.Underwater Technology
Two major leaps forward have been made in the way we do maritime archaeology underwater. The first is the growing use of autonomous underwater vehicles
, or AUVs. These robots, equipped with digital underwater imaging apparatuses, can survey the seafloor independently, without needing to be controlled by a human operator. They can go deeper and stay in the water longer than divers, giving us a tool to map massive chunks of the seabed that is still largely undocumented. However we should not discount the value of maritime archaeologists physically visiting and experiencing the site firsthand. Using rebreather technology
, devices that recycle air and filter out bad gasses, divers can now go deeper and stay underwater longer than before.
Today, these technologies are already being deployed
in Crete in the search for shipwrecks of the enigmatic, but so far elusive, Minoans who ruled the Aegean Sea more than 3000 years ago.Applications of Science and Interdisciplinary Technology
Whilst over the past few decades the pace at which technology has advanced is unprecedented and perhaps unlikely to be seen again in our lifetime, we are still certain to see some new advancements in tools which can aid the interpretation of maritime archaeology sites.
Often with the development of new technologies it takes time to fully realise their potential. A good example of this is 3D printing
. With 3D printing we are now able to create models of ships, scaled individual timbers and other artefacts. We are also able to visually reconstruct ships and their contents using computer software. These tools can be used to predict how sites have changed, both recently and far into the past (e.g. with the rise and fall of sea levels and predictions of past environmental conditions such as waves and winds) and how they may change in the future. These tangible objects can be used as powerful aids in public engagement.
New technologies are often developed outside of the archaeological world only later to be incorporated into archaeological research. Technology is often therefore a connection between different disciplines. Archaeologists are more able to make the most of archaeological resources through collaboration with different disciplines and faculties, such as the work carried out by the Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute
.Public Platforms for Exploration
In the future more and more people will take part in underwater exploration. Crowd sourcing has started to grow in archaeology, such as Micropasts
, the Big Anchor Project
, and the GoogleEarth abandoned shipwrecks database
. The internet allows for everyone to get involved and soon projects will be run through online platforms. Community-based websites like MaritimeArchaeology.com
act as frameworks to connect people and projects, allowing contributions to be made by all.
This course is an example of how maritime archaeology can expand to reach more people. In the future more and more aspects of exploration will be parceled out to interested parties, from survey and exploration to documentation and excavation to finally research and publication. At the end of this course is a list of university programs and field schools if you would like to get more involved.What is left to find under the world’s oceans?
Maritime archaeologists Donald Keith and Toni Carrell conducted an interesting study that found shipwreck finds peaked during the 1970s and have declined ever since
. Combined with widespread looting of archaeological sites
by treasure hunters and tourists, many sites are disappearing and some are lost forever.
On the other side of the debate, the last few years have seen incredible discoveries that are rewriting history books. The oldest submerged city in the world
was identified in 2009 at Pavlopetri in Greece. The first ancient naval battlefield
was not discovered until 2008. In 2003 a fully intact ancient Greek merchant ship was found in the anoxic deep waters of the Black Sea, so complete that its mast is still standing upright
. Similar, the cold fresh water of the Baltic Sea has revealed incredible ghost ships
that likewise have perfect preservation; many have been discovered in the last five years.
As technology improves resolution and depth ability, more and higher quality discoveries will be made. While fewer shipwrecks are being found, the scientific quality of shipwrecks is improving and more paleolandscapes and sunken cities are being identified. What is left to be found? We have an extensive wish list
for discoveries that could change what we know about the past: a Viking shipwreck
in North America, one of the massive Chinese ships
that would have dwarfed the European Age of Discovery ships, or a Paleolithic cave
with evidence of everyday life perfectly preserved by sea level change. What discoveries would you like to find?
We are currently in a golden age of underwater exploration. Arguably in a hundred years people will be not be discussing the great land discoveries of the 19th and early 20th centuries like Tutankhamen or Machu Picchu, but the fantastic underwater discoveries we will make in the next fifty years.