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Resource Guide to Under Water &
Aircraft Archaeology


Archaeology refers to the study of humans and society by recovering and studying architecture, artifacts and other items. The goals of this field are varied while some look to understand cultural history and others to study human evolution. Archaeology requires surveyance and then excavation in order to learn about the past. Archaeology uses history, anthropology, ethnology, art history, geology, palaeontology, statistics and other sciences to discover the truths of the past. There are many subgroups of Archaeology that specialize in specific types of excavation.

Maritime Archaeology

Maritime archaeology looks at how humans interact with rivers, lakes and oceans. Individuals study cargo, human remains, shipwrecks, port structures, vessels and facilities found along the shore. This form of archaeology can be slightly different from other fields as many times they are studying shipwrecks and other catastrophes which are significant events that occur rather suddenly. However some types of this study look at the slow accumulation or material over time, such as piers, jetties and wharves that have been worn away over time.

Nautical Archaeology

Nautical archaeology is a specialization within the field of maritime archaeology. This specifically studies the construction and use of vessels. Therefore those that work in the field will study shipwrecks and any other items that might describe vessels that use waterways and oceans. The water was the main avenue of transportation around the world and tells many things about different cultures from the past.

Aerial Archaeology

This field studies archaeological remains by looking at them from high altitudes. High points typically allow scientists to see details and how structures and settings relate to things in a wider context. Researchers will use scaffolds, hot air balloons, kites, cameras and satellites to view sites from a bird’s eye view. Archaeologists were able to use the technology that was developed during WWI and WWII and apply them to archaeology, as the military used aerial photography extensively. Photographs used within this field may be pictures taken from directly overhead or at an angle. When photos are overlapped, archaeologists can form them into three dimensional images for a better perspective of the past.

Aviation Archaeology

This type of archaeology finds, documents, recovers and preserves locations and sites that are important to aviation history. This is also known as aircraft archaeology and is done both on land and underwater. Most of the time, these archaeologists are studying crash sites and aircraft wrecks. This field of study originates to after the Second World War. The majority of sites that are persevered are historical sites as modern day crashes are cleaned up immediately due to environmental regulations, though this depends on the country.

Archaeology of Shipwrecks

This field of deals specifically with shipwrecks and uses archaeology and diving techniques to study and explore these wrecks. Archaeological material can be scrambled and spread out at a wreck site and scientists must understand how shipwrecks form in order to determine what happened. A wreck will go through many changes until an equilibrium is met with the surrounding environment. This final structure may be very unstable and the density or weight of objects will affect the placement of the final wreck, as heavier items will stay put while lighter items can be moved by waves and currents. There are several theories as to how shipwrecks developed and once the actual wreck has been studied and preserved, the ship itself are investigated to determine how it fits within the time frame for its economic, social and political relationships.

  • Winfield Scott 2001 – Studies conducted in the summer of 2001 on the California steamship Winfield Scott that was used during the California Gold Rush in the 1850s.
  • HMS Sussex(PDF) – Project plan that details the methods and principles used to explore and excavate the HMS Sussex shipwreck, a British Royal Navy warship.
  • First Minoan Shipwreck – Detection of shipwrecks along the coast of Crete which resulted in the discover of the first Minoan shipwreck.
  • Shipwrecks and Underwater Archaeological Sites in New Zealand(PDF) – Details on shipwrecks found along the coast of New Zealand.
  • Mica Shipwreck Project(PDF) – Report on the Mica Shipwreck, a ship located in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Abandoned Shipwreck Act – Laws that establish ownership to shipwrecks established in 1987.
  • Resurrecting the Swan – Details on the discover of the Swan, a ship from Cromwell that was wrecked along the cost of Scotland.

Archaeology of Plane Wrecks

As with aviation archaeology this type of archaeology looks at plane crashes. Most studied plane crashes are military, though some may be of privately owned planes. While the actual crash sites are not normally preserved the documentation of the crash site is important. Pictures and notes of the planes and crash sites are a large portion of history. There are many planes that were lost in action during fighting and the planes' whereabouts are currently unknown. Archaeologists will study flight patterns and fighting to try to discover the whereabouts of these planes.

Underwater Archaeology of Past Civilizations

Another aspect of underwater archaeology is studying past civilizations that were located in areas that are now underwater. Through time the land masses and oceans have changed so that many of the first civilizations and settlements may be now located in spots that were once above the water. This may be due to rising oceans, global climate change, changing paths of rivers and the formation of lakes.

  • Underwater Archaeology Courses(PDF) – A list of courses in underwater archaeology available at universities and institutions.
  • Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology – Learn about what is underwater archaeology and projects going on around the world.
  • Searching for Cleopatra – Underwater archaeologists search the waters around Alexandria in search of Cleopatra, as Alexandria is know a sunken city.
  • Introduction to Marine Archaeology – Details on how water can preserve treasures that allow humans to understand culture and history.
  • Port Royal Project – Excavation of the 17th century underwater port of Port Royal, Jamaica, a haven for pirates and privateers.
  • Marine Archaeology in India – Provides information on the type of marine archaeology going on in India, including details on excavations and findings from various sites.
  • Archaeological Survey of India – Information on the underwater archaeological wing dedicated to underwater excavations along the coast of India.
  • Japan’s Underwater Pyramids – discover of underwater pyramids is evidence of an ancient city that is now underwater.
  • Yonaguni – Investigation by the Morien Institute on the underwater pyramids found off the coast of Japan.
  • Riches of Alexandria – Interview of Jean Yves Empereur the director of underwater archaeology going on in Alexandria harbour.
  • Alexandria, the Lost city – Scientists have discovered traces of an underwater city, thought to be Alexandria.
 
         
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