Category Archives: Nautical Archaeology

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Walk the Ocean Floor with Google Maps Street View

In a project sponsored by Google and Catlin Seaview Survey, Google Maps now offers “Street View” of the Ocean Floor. A majority of the images have been collected off the coast of Australia and the Caribbean. Scientists in America will be exploring fish-eye under water photography this week in the Florida Keys. 

You can read more about the project via the Associated Press or this summary by Scientific American. You can peruse the collection of underwater Street View images (with more coming) here.

 

The Underwater Museum of Isla Mujeres, Mexico Courtesy of Google Maps

The Underwater Museum of Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Courtesy of Google Maps

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Smithsonian Online Exhibit: On the Water

Thanks to my colleague Greg Cooper for letting me know about this great exhibit. The Smithsonian Museum has an amazing online exhibit: On the Water. The exhibit, divided by era and theme, explores physical artifacts, maps, narratives and accounts, as well as songs and stories all connected to man’s relationship with the Ocean. The exhibit, primarily focused on United States history, explores whaling, piracy, travel, and more.

In addition to content and material, the exhibit also provides numerous learning resources for educators, including lesson plans and activities.

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Smithsonian 3D Scanning its Collection

The Smithsonian is 3D scanning its collection to preserve it for future generations. Curators have prioritized more than 14 million objects for digitized preservation.  See the full article at Engadget. Check out the video of the process of scanning and preserving the Gunboat Philadelphia.

Budget Ends Excavations at Florida’s Prehistoric Little Salt Spring

I would be remiss if I let this story of my college mentor’s, John Gifford, Ph.D., prehistoric excavation closing down due to a shrinking budget. Little Salt Spring in Sarasota County, Florida is an important Paleo-Indian site and on the National Register of Historic Places. Archaeological Investigations over the last 21 years have yielded key information to understanding the peoples who lived in this region thousands of years before Columbus.

Little Salt Spring, courtesy of Wikimedia

Little Salt Spring, courtesy of Wikimedia

The 111 acre sink hole in Central Florida drew Floridians as early as 12,000 years ago. They used the site as a fresh water source but also as a trap for larger game, drowning them in the deep water and then removing the carcass to clean and eat. The material found at the site has been important and only just touched the surface.

Sadly, recently budget evaluations have determined the sites closing and, as such, Dr. Gifford will be retiring his archaeological career at the University of Miami’s Rosenthal School of Marine and Atmosphere Science.

“…because of this, I’m retiring after this semester. The reason I was hired in 1983 was to work at Little Salt Spring. My job was to do underwater research in Little Salt Spring.” — John Gifford, Ph.D.

The closing of the site has sent ripples throughout the archaeological community.

“It’s a rare site. It is one of Florida’s most puzzling and enigmatic archaeological sites. It is significant, based on what has been found there; the rich archaeological evidence of the earliest period of human occupation in Florida. It’s a time period of which we know very little.” Brent Wiseman, Ph.D.

To learn more about the Little Salt Springs excavations and its closing, see the article at Tampa Bay Online.

Famous Roman Shipwreck Off the Coast of Greece Could be Two Ships

Antikythera Mechanism fragment courtesy of Wikimedia

Antikythera Mechanism fragment courtesy of Wikimedia

The famous Roman shipwreck at Antikythera may in fact be the resting place of two wrecked vessels. The underwater site was discovered in the early 1900s and became quickly famous when nautical archaeologists discovered a device they termed the Antikythera Mechanism, a sophisticated device used to calculate astronomical positions.

The breadth of the wreck and vast array of artifacts have led researchers to question whether or not there are actually two ships at the site rather than the assumed one.

The site’s preservation is due to its remote and deep location, which protects it from curious scuba divers and would be looters. However, the attention that has been showered on the site has encouraged documentary film makers and reporters to be more… creative in how they have presented the finds and the site itself. As such, researchers are planning to return to the site to better explore it.

“Because the site has been so intruded upon for more than a century it gets really hard to disambiguate what’s myth and what’s fact,” – Brendan Foley

To learn more about the excavation and proposed return to the Antikythera wreck, see the article at Discovery News.

Top 10 Archaeological Discoveries of 2012

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 12.24.08 PMToday, Archaeology Magazine has rolled out its “Top 10 Discoveries of 2012.” The list includes (in no particular order):

Maya Sun God Mask

Neanderthal Medicine Chest

First Use of Poison

Aztec Ritual Burial

Caesar’s Gallic Outpost

Europe’s Oldest Engraving

The First Pots

Scottish “Frankenstein” Mummy

2,000 Year Old Stashed Treasure

Oldest Egyptian Funerary Boat

 

Ancient Warship Sheds New Light on Roman Navy

Archaeologists excavating a 2,300 year old ship, located in the “Bay of Pirates,” are hoping to shed light on naval war tactics during the Punic Wars (the wars between Rome and Carthage). The Romans, who detested the water, are reported to have built their ships with a rostrum, a type of ‘beak’ that was used to ram the enemy.

Carbon dating has placed the sinking of the ship at approximately 260 BCE, during the first Punic War. They shave published their findings in this month’s Analytical Chemistry. If you do not have a subscription to the journal, read the summary at Science Daily.