Tag Archives: Maritime Archaeology

New Photos of the Titanic Expedition Released

photo courtesy of Fox News

In Norfolk Virginia, scientists revealed some new and stunning images of the RMS Titanic. The photographs and 3D images come from one of the latest expeditions to the downed ocean-liner now resting two miles below the surface of the North Atlantic. The photos made an appearance in a Norfolk court room where the salvage rights to the ship are still being determined.

The ship, labeled ‘unsinkable,’ struck an iceberg and sank to the bottom of the North Atlantic on April 15, 1912. The sinking remains the greatest non-wartime maritime disaster in all of history and drastically changed the way that shipping traffic in the North Atlantic is conducted.

To view these images, check out this article at FoxNews or these one on the 3D images.

AIA’s Formal Statement on the Belitung Shipwreck & the Smithsonian

Previously, I posted on the controversy surrounding the Smithsonian’s exhibit of materials looted from the Belitung Shipwreck. You can read those articles here:

Museums & Looted Antiquities: Conflict at the Smithsonian

Museums & Looted Antiquities – the Smithsonian

Recently, the American Institute of Archaeology (AIA) has issued a formal statement opposing the Smithsonian’s display of these artifacts.  I have included the statement in its entirety below. You can also read it in its entirety here.

As the largest and oldest organization devoted to archaeology in North America, the Archaeological Institute of America is committed to the protection of the world’s cultural heritage. As part of this commitment we strongly oppose the commercial salvage of antiquities and any exploitation of archaeological materials obtained in this manner.

The Belitung Shipwreck was salvaged unscientifically by commercially-motivated treasure hunters. Although the excavation and disposition of these materials may be technically “legal,” it is the AIA’s position that involvement by the Smithsonian Institution in the exhibition of these artifacts will serve to blur the distinction between bona fide nautical archaeology and treasure hunting. Following this path puts the Smithsonian in the indefensible position of aiding those who believe that antiquities are a commodity to be mined for personal or corporate financial gain. They are not—they are part of the world’s cultural patrimony.

As the premier museum of the United States and the largest museum and research institution in the world, the Smithsonian is a model for others and should endorse the highest ethical standards for American archaeological and museological practice. The AIA urges the Smithsonian’s leadership to heed the voices of archaeologists worldwide—including many within its own walls—in cancelling the plans for any exhibition of the Belitung shipwreck and its artifacts. To proceed with plans to display these objects will increase the risk to other equally valuable shipwrecks that have yet to be discovered.

Elizabeth Bartman
President, AIA



Worms Tell the Story of the Ground Zero Shipwreck

Last year, historians and archaeologists were excited and curious when the ground zero excavations uncovered an 18th century ship wreck. Now the material has all been removed and put into storage, preserving the delicate timbers, allowing scientists to begin their investigations on the mysterious artifact.

The ship has been dubbed the USS Adrian, after the lead excavator of the site. In spite of all of the attention and effort in its investigation, little is known about the ship including its origin and purposes.

“This shipwreck gives us a glimpse of the past—the last chapter in a complex story. We can start rebuilding and rewriting those other chapters of a ship’s life by doing things like dendrochronology,” says tree-ring specialist Pearce Paul Creasman of the University of Arizona, in Tucson.

Specialists are working on identifying its age and original provenance. Read more about the excavation in this article in Scientific American and view the slideshow here.

NOAA Explores the Maritime Maya

The maritime accomplishments of the Maya have largely been neglected in the archaeological world. Recently, NOAA teamed up with Mayan Archaeologists to explore ancient coastlines and maritime accomplishments of this vibrant, New World civilization.

Read more about this large, significant project in this article published by NOAA.

Museums & Looted Antiquities – the Conflict at the Smithsonian

A few weeks ago, I posted an article about a potential exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum – a collection of artifacts from looted shipwreck.

The topic has created a lot of discussion and debate over the role that museums serve in protecting antiquities and hindering the trade of looted antiquities.

NPR has also gotten into the discussion with an interesting report and exchange on this topic – presenting thoughts and opinions from various sources (professional archaeologists, the Council of Maritime Museums, and even NOAA).

Read the story and listen to the report here.

99 Years After the Fact, Child Victim of the Titanic Identified

The RMS Titanic, nicknamed “The Unsinkable” by engineers and newspapermen, has been a romantic highlight of man’s arrogance and the power of nature. The ship sank on April 15, 1912, only four days into its maiden voyage – taking with it to the depths of the ocean over 1500 of its 2200 passenger and crew manifest. It was, and remains, the greatest non-wartime maritime tragedy.

Even before the famous Leonardo Dicaprio film, the RMS Titanic has captured our imaginations – especially after it was rediscovered in 1985 by a salvage team (or as my former mentor would call them – treasure hunters, common looters with more funding).

I remember being mesmerized by the stories of those who lost their lives and the shocking stories of the survivors of the great tragedy. In spite of what many tweens and twenty-somethings may think, the great stories of the TItanic were not acted out by Kate Winslett or Leonardo Dicaprio. Who can forget the nouveaux riche and scandalous “Unsinkable Molly Brown” or Captain Edward Smith, who refused a place on a lifeboat (as did his wife) as he believed his place as Captain was to go down with his ship. Most of all, I remember being moved by the band, who reportedly played until the last moments.

The victims of the Titanic knew no age, gender, or class (although the wealthy had a significantly better chance of survival). One mysterious victim was a young child, a toddler whose body was pulled out of the icy Atlantic on April 21. The child’s identity was hastily (and incorrectly made). However, a recent exhumation, with accompanying DNA testing, has made a confirmed identity of the child as British born: Sidney Lesley Goodwin. Young Sidney perished with the rest of his family (both parents, three brothers, and two sisters) on the Titanic’s tragic voyage.

Read the entirety of the article to learn about the investigator’s process and the ultimate identity of this beautiful child whose life was tragically cut short in this article from MSNBC.