What is Underwater Archeology?

Underwater archeology is the sub-discipline in archeology that deals with the archaeological study of underwater sites. Underwater archeology is sometimes referred to as maritime archeology. However, while maritime archeology deals with the interactions of humans with the sea, underwater archeology focuses on submarine sites, regardless of their connection to the sea. Underwater archeology is similar to traditional terrestrial archeology. The most common types of sites studied in underwater archeology are shipwrecks. Other types of sites explored in underwater archeology include submerged cities, aircraft sites, waste sites, isolated artifacts and sites of submerged indigenous homes. Underwater archeology also covers flooded land,

History of underwater archeology

In the past, the development and creation of underwater archeology as a field in archaeological research faced challenges due to the difficulties of access and work on submarine sites. The application of underwater archeology depended mainly on the tools and abilities developed by the recovery of shipwrecks. However, when universities became interested in underwater archeology and started teaching, the field expanded into a more theoretical and practical basis. The development of underwater technology has taken a drastic turn over the years, leading to the development of branches in underwater archeology. One of the branches of underwater archeology is maritime archeology that was accepted in the 1980s. Other branches include nautical archeology and underwater aeronautical archeology.

Importance and contributions

Underwater archeology has contributed significantly to the expansion of research and knowledge of the past. For example, underwater archaeological research has led to the development of submarines that are useful research tools. Moreover, through underwater archeology, man has been able to create a set of human artefacts useful in the study of history. Artifacts play a significant contribution to other archives such as science and engineering. Underwater archeology has allowed the study of important shipwrecks such as the Titanic and Housatonic that are of vital historical importance due to the magnitude of the loss of life connected to them and the circumstances of the loss.

Challenges of underwater archeology

Research on submarine sites faces significant challenges. First of all, the submarine sites are difficult to access and therefore require equipment and underwater skills specialized for access compared to research sites on land. Submarine sites are also very dangerous compared to land based sites. When archaeologists have direct access to sites, the duration available in the depths is limited.

To access very deep sites inaccessible to the archaeologist, specialized equipment such as remote and submarine sensors are needed. In order for an underwater archaeological event to take place, a work platform must be set up. The work platform includes equipment such as air supply machines, re-compression equipment, medical facilities, storage facilities for excavation materials and special survey equipment, among others. Furthermore, underwater archeology faces the challenges of bad weather especially because marine sites are subject to strong tidal flows that represent a threat to human life. Finally, marine sites have marine animals that can pose a threat to the safety of human beings.

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