Tag Archives: Marine Archaeology

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.

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.

Archaeology of the Titanic

This month’s Archaeology Magazine highlights the history of the archaeology of the RMS Titanic, the famed “unsinkable” luxury liner that sank after striking an iceberg on April 15 1912. The Titanic has been subject of romance and scholarly inquiry – especially after its rediscovery in 1985.

Archaeology Magazine highlights the history of the search for the ship (multiple failed attempts by various recovery teams preceded the Franco-American expedition that discovered its remains). Learn about the search, the ships recovery, and the complicated conservation that went into preserving the artifacts and burying the remains of those who died at sea that Arctic Night.

Read the full featured article here: “Archaeology of the Titanic”.

The Faces of the Crewmen of the USS Monitor to be Reconstructed

Crew of the USS Monitor

The USS Monitor was one of the first iron clad naval ships and most famous for engaging in battle with the Merrimack (in the first battle between ironclad ships). When the turret of the Monitor was raised, two skeletons were found along with it.

Now, forensic anthropologists are using the skulls of the deceased crewmen in an attempt to reconstruct the faces of the ship’s sailors. The men both appear to be Caucasian and between the ages of 17 and 24.  If successful, this will be the first time their faces have been seen in more than a hundred and fifty years.

To learn more about the USS Monitor, see the article in MSNBC.