shipwreck

  • Climate Change & Underwater Cultural Heritage

    We are back from hiatus!! Thanks for hanging in there with us through our travels! This summer will have a lot more travels in store for our “Global ArchaeoVenturers” Series! – Stay tuned for the rest of Season 3 & more ‘in the field’ footage!
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    No matter which camp you side with in the ‘Climate Change’ discussion, its effects cannot be denied.period. Polar vortexes, massive flooding, snow in deserts, excessive drought, etc… we’ve all been privy to it the last few years no matter where we are in this world, in the extreme, and whether it happens sooner or later, these changes will continue unchecked. However, without getting into said debate, this blog & episode is about how climate change is not just affecting our atmospheres, oceans, and seas, but as a byproduct- our submerged heritage as well. If you’re a maritime archaeologist, a scuba diver, someone fascinated by shipwrecks or just someone interested in the past- this means you should be concerned for all of the knowledge that could potentially be lost because of climate change affecting the preservation and ability to document submerged sites.

    The author diving on a WWII shipwreck in Santorini

    The problem with underwater heritage is that it is by definition, underwater, meaning that many times these sites are ‘out of sight, out of mind’ for even those already concerned with cultural heritage protection. Because of a desperate need for awareness and additional protection even within our own sector, UNESCO had to expand upon the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property by creating a completely separate (and needed) Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage in 2001. Heritage managers are already fighting great odds to protect submerged sites, and now climate change is complicating that fight even more because the answers aren’t clear and the solutions may not even be feasible.

    As Katie (The Digger) asks in this episode, how can things like rising sea levels make a difference for a site that is already underwater? Well rising sea levels create two problems- 1. sites that are not yet submerged, but may soon be. Even with the right protection, many of these sites are location specific and whole settlements that cannot be moved – Jamestown V.A.- the site of the first English settlement in America or the Statue of Liberty in NYC, amongst others, are predicted to be underwater within another 100 years! What can be done to prevent this? If people would cut their carbon emissions, it could slow down the rate of these predictions of sea level and temperature rises. 2. For sites already underwater, as discussed in the episode (all other environmental factors aside), a rise in water level on sites significantly reduces the amount of time that divers/maritime archaeologists can spend on the site. This might not seem like as big of a deal, but when you take into consideration how costly an underwater archaeological excavation already is, then if the time spent on a site continues to reduce, a full study could take years longer. English Heritage archaeologist Mark Dunkley describes “the effect of sea level rise on archaeological diving projects will be to incrementally reduce the amount of time (and therefore productivity) an air-breathing diver can spend underwater safely. For example, a 20% increase in diving depth can result in a 32% decrease in dive time.” Not to forget that the deeper a site gets, the more expensive high tech equipment will be needed for proper documentation.

    Teredo navalis (shipworm type) in wood

    If you refer to an earlier blog “Forgotten Legacy of WWII Wrecks- Environmental Hazard or Underwater Cultural Heritage?” you’ll recall why the scientific world is also concerned because “shipwrecks, ocean acidification and waste dumping into oceans are among the biggest sources of ocean pollution. Some 75% of sunken wrecks date back to the Second World War; their metal structures are therefore ageing and the plates deteriorating, threatening to release their contents into the ocean under the effect of corrosion. The North Atlantic Ocean has 25% of the potentially polluting wrecks in the world, which can contain up to 38% of the total volume of oil trapped in sunken vessels” says the Council of Europe in 2012.Other impacts of climate change on marine environments include increased seawater temperatures, ocean acidification and changes in ocean circulation which will also affect underwater cultural heritage. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) uses underwater WWII shipwrecks in North Carolina to monitor changes in the marine ecosystems that these ships support as the waters warm up. “North Carolina’s marine communities are made up of a mixture of temperate and tropical species, due to the states’ geographic location in a transition zone between north and south.” So far, they have seen an increase in tropical animals off N.C. as well as tropical algae species never before seen in the area. Invasive species like the notoriousshipworm (which is actually a mollusk) which has a penchant for boring into and living in submerged wooden structures, are spreading from their native habitats and thriving in the warming seas. As far north as the U.K. Dunkley points out that the blacktip shipworm has now become active all-year round on unprotected shipwrecks because of sea temperature increase. A report on shipworm invasions in the Baltic Sea by David Gregory for UNESCO illustrates that these dangers to wooden vessels have spread possibly beyond repair in an environment once conducive to pristine wreck preservation, specifically because of the absence of marine borers. These species are an ever-growing major threat to wooden wrecks and structures.
    These numbers are meant to be intimidating. Humanity is so concerned (and rightfully so) with losing our cultural heritage through force and violence, like in the cases with ISIS going on right now, but what happens when we sit by and do nothing, knowing the effects of climate change today on the future of submerged sites? Will we be mournful for the unknown knowledge or the lives left unremembered on the bottom of the sea because we didn’t get out acts together in time before the information was lost? We must make more strides to understand the impacts/effects of climate change and create ocean management strategies that incorporate cultural heritage, for it is necessary to help us manage the maritime historic environment for future generations.
    Watch this week’s accompanying episode entitled “How Does Climate Change Affect Shipwrecks?” HERE or visit youtube.com/ArchaeoVenturers
  • Exploring the Past: Salima Ikram and Justine Benanty on BBC World Service

    Justine Benanty is a qualified pilot but as a maritime archaeologist her time is spent underwater rather than in the sky. At her first dig in Israel she realised that she hated wheelbarrows and got sunburnt too easily to work in the desert, so investigating shipwrecks became her focus. Her project for the last five years has been to tell the stories of the slaves, who were shipped across the Atlantic Ocean, through archaeology. It is a science which needs an image overhaul because, she says “there’s nothing cooler than finding […] a shipwreck at the bottom of the sea that no-one has seen for hundreds of years”. She is a co-founder of the ArchaeoVenturers project, a collection of videos and blogs about issues in history and science, which also celebrates women’s work in these fields.

    Salima Ikram was born in Pakistan and got hooked on ancient Egyptian artefacts through the pictures in a childhood book. Her fate as an Egyptologist was sealed when she came face-to-face, aged nine, with mesmerising statues in the Cairo museum; she decided then that finding out more about them would be her life’s work. “Archaeologists are people who never grew up” she says. When not lecturing at the American University in Cairo, Salima will be somewhere dry, dusty, and dirty, recording ancient inscriptions or X-raying mummies – human and animal. Her role models in archaeology were women who had been working since the 1940s, but, she says sexism is still a problem and more so in the west than the east. The important thing, she says, “is to do what you want to do and do it very well.”

    (Photo: Salima Ikram and Justine Benanty. Credit: Salima Ikram – J. Rowland)

    Check out the link for downloading the podcast or listen directly on your computer HERE!

  • Forgotten Legacy of WWII Wrecks- Environmental Hazard or Underwater Cultural Heritage?

    World War II was the bloodiest, deadliest and most destructive war in human history. The National WWII Museum puts battle deaths at 15 million, battle wounded at 25 million, and civilian deaths at 45 million- all unfathomable numbers to comprehend. Memories and reminders of that war are all around us, from politics to economies to cultural institutions and more. However, lying in wait on the bottom of the ocean floor are about 7800 wrecks that were involved in World War II, with 3800 of them in the Pacific Theater alone. Wrecks from WWII are significant because it was the first time where petroleum ships were specifically targeted for attack- some even say that America’s biggest contribution to winning the war was petroleum. Although oil pollution is the most noted risk from these vessels, it can also include threats from munitions, chemical wastes, radioactive materials and others. Damaging activities, both environmental and manmade, that can release these hazardous materials include dragging anchors over wrecks, dynamite fishing, shipwreck looting, more substantial/invasive archaeological methods, storms, earthquakes, and the list goes on. The amount of oil contained in these ships could be anywhere from 757 million to 6 billion gallons according to a 2005 assessment prepared by Environmental Research Consulting and others. (It should be noted that when the term ‘wreck’ is used here, it includes not only shipwrecks but also aircrafts and submarines.)

         The President of the Ocean Foundation, Mark Spalding, recently wrote a piece for National Geographic about the hazards of underwater cultural heritage (UCH) towards a healthy ocean environment. Many articles over the last two or three years have debated the issues around the potential for oil pollution from these UCH sites, as these are sites of cultural significance, and in many cases, grave sites. One of the more well known examples of oil pollution is the 1953 wreck SS Jacob Luckenbach, a supply freighter headed to Korea during the Korean War. Scientists were able to pinpoint the shipwreck after decades of questioning why sea life were being killed from oil spills with no apparent source. The cleanup from this wreck alone cost between $18-22 million. The USS Arizona, which has been leaking oil since it was attacked at Pearl Harbor in 1941, is another prominent example where multidisciplinary teams are still working to solve the same catastrophic issue.
    A gun on the deck of the sunken U-166 German submarine
         There is much debate about how to go forward, despite the simplest solution being to pump out the oil before the tanks are destroyed. No one organization controls, let alone has the ability, to survey and intervene on every potentially threatening wreck in the Ocean- a feat that is nearly impossible at the present moment, even if every organization were to intervene. In 2013, NOAA, as part of their Remediation of Underwater Legacy Environmental Threats (RULET) project, released a report that narrowed down the estimated 20K vessels in US waters down to close to 600, of which they completed 87 individual assessments. This report contained several vessels from WWII, amongst others, and found that only 36 of those posed a significant oil pollution threat and 17 are recommended for further investigation. So if you look at the number 7800 wrecks vs 36 or even 600 wrecks, there is room for debate for how imminent the problem might actually be. Although, certainly no one is arguing that these threats shouldn’t be mitigated for the more hazardous wrecks. And yet, despite all the problems highlighted here, many of these vessels have become artificial reefs where sea life and algae thrive. Plans for solving this global crisis must include measures for minimal disturbance of the sea life and their habitats. Because these UCH sites are by definition ‘underwater’, interested parties must work even harder to keep the public and ruling agencies apprised of the problems, but also these wrecks’ importance to our humanity and history. Conservationists, environmentalists, archaeologists, and others must create mediation plans for the coming years when oil pollution and other, potentially worse issues, arise from these wrecks so that history doesn’t become catastrophe.
    USS Abraham Lincoln manning rails for USS Arizona

     

  • International Archaeology Day 2014

         International Archaeology Day is the perfect way for archaeological and cultural heritage academics to give back to their respective local communities. I have become a huge supporter over the last few years of archaeologists taking the time to become involved in public archaeology, community archaeology, local capacity building, and investing in young kids who love exploration and history/science. Education and public engagement are in most, if not all, professional archaeological societies’ ethical or standard professional codes (examples include AIA, SHA, SAA) and it is high time that professionals in the field, make more of a concerted effort to incorporate these principles into their fieldwork and research practices.     Started in 2011, International Archaeology Day is described by the Archaeological Institute of America as:”International Archaeology Day is a celebration of archaeology and the thrill of discovery. Every October the AIA and archaeological organizations across the United States, Canada, and abroad present archaeological programs and activities for people of all ages and interests. Whether it is a family-friendly archaeology fair, a guided tour of a local archaeological site, a simulated dig, a lecture or a classroom visit from an archaeologist, the interactive, hands-on International Archaeology Day programs provide the chance to indulge your inner Indiana Jones.”

         This year, ArchaeoVenturers and Youth Diving With a Purpose co-participated with Archaeology in the Community for their IAD event at the Georgetown Library. Run by Dr. Alexandra Jones, Archaeology in the Community organizes events and activities all year round in the DC/MD/VA region (for anyone reading who might be interested in participating or volunteering). We had several interested children from the neighborhood join us for the activities, such as reconstructing broken ceramics (courtesy of DC SHPO office, organized by Ruth Trucolli) or rolling clay pots with Sara Ayers-Rigsby (all the way up from CRM work in FL) to trying on scuba equipment (which is always a favorite as kids love playing dress up). The number one question, behind the inevitable shark questions, is ‘when can I learn to dive?’ which always makes me quite giddy knowing that, in a few years (you can technically start with PADI at only 10 years old!), we could have a new crop of intelligent and inquisitive young kids becoming divers and scientists one day!
       Also on IAD, I was fortunate enough to be extended an invitation to participate in “History, Heroes, and Treasures” organized by the National Archives and Records Administration- which is literally “Night at the Museum”- I wish I had these kinds of opportunities available when I was a kid! The #ArchivesSleepover is described by the Archives Foundation as:”Throughout the night, young explorers investigate – through music, chats with historical figures, games, and more – some of the greatest adventures of all time. Campers will discover mysterious shipwrecks, venture into outer space, explore the wild West, and trek through the rugged Arctic as they explore the National Archives Museum’s treasured records.”All the while, these lucky kids and their parents get to SLEEP NEXT TO THE ORIGINAL CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA- a truly once in a lifetime opportunity-they will hopefully be regaling tales of this night to their children and grandchildren!I worked with David Gadsby of NPS to teach the young explorers how to document artifacts on a shipwreck map (the sitemap of the shipwreck America)- to which they exceeded all expectations. Following that, I was asked to play the part of the Underwater Explorer/Archaeologist (modern day) alongside historical characters Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis & Clark exploration fame) and Matthew Hensen (1st African American polar explorer). I donned my full scuba kit for my costume- luckily, I wore a child’s size tank, since we were standing up there under those bright lights for an hour! We were set up on stage, in tv interview format, so that all 100 kids in the audience were allowed to ask us questions. I assume I can speak for my fellow explorers when I say that being on stage answering their queries and helping to educate them about archaeology (not Indiana Jones archaeology), was an inspirational moment for me, knowing how genuinely interested these students and parents were in science and history.Overall, it was an outstanding year for International Archaeology Day and for getting young kids interested in maritime archaeology – I cannot wait to be invited back next year!



















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  • An Opinion on Ocean Threats

    trashed3

    image via transhmanian devil

    In the New York Times ‘Swimming Through Garbage‘, ocean advocate and maritime lawyer, Lewis Pugh, comments that no matter where he swims on our globe, he is swimming through piles of trash- plastic, tires, diapers, bottles- you name it. As a United Nations Patron for the Oceans, he clearly illustrates the idyllic picture of how abundant oceanic wildlife used to be at Columbus’ time (no coincidence that today is Columbus Day), where the sea was ‘thick’ with turtles. When compared to present day, we must reference the Endangered Species Act (1973), which lists approximately 2,195 species on the endangered list. He is rightfully worried that in the next half-life, as more nations become developed and non-renewable resources are in higher demand, we will lose what little this Earth has left. If “an estimated 100 million sharks are fished out of the world’s oceans every year,” and we examine from now until 2030 – approx. ~15 years from now- that is One Billion Five Hundred Million sharks! In his view, the only way we will be able to limit this expansion, and perhaps reverse this alarming process, is through the creation of more marine protected areas (like NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries or PERSGA areas in Red Sea and Gulf of Aden). His ‘Seven Seas Expedition’ is “urging policy makers to protect at least 10% of our seas in a network of well managed and well designed Marine Protected Areas that represent the full range of marine life in our oceans.” I couldn’t agree more…

    As a relatively young diver myself, I have never scuba dived on a healthy reef, either for work or for play. One of my greatest laments as a diver has been that I cannot share in the same experiences of yesteryear with my colleagues who have been diving for decades, who constantly regale me with stories of healthy ecosystems and picturesque reefs. Also, my greatest marine animal experience has been at the Georgia Aquarium, a completely artificial environment, where I dove amongst four whale sharks. This was a fantastic experience, but not compared to diving off the coast of Mozambique or Indonesia and encountering the gentle giants in their natural habitat!  I remember my aquarium dive buddy commenting, ‘thank god we’ve had this opportunity- imagine flying half way across the world to maybe see something this spectacular’. She made that comment because there is no more guarantee that divers or anyone else trying to admire submerged natural beauty, will actually encounter these marine treasures- with fewer chances as time goes on. In fact, we dedicate a whole program as part of Youth Diving With a Purpose, to the Coral Restoration Foundation which “leads the development of offshore nursery and restoration methods to preserve unique genetic lineages of staghorn and elkhorn coral for research and restoration purposes,” which are both endangered.

    It’s small outlets of hope like CRF or Ocean Conservancy, that foster innovation and strategic planning for the possibility that our generation can reverse this unstoppable process. I concur with Pugh’s conclusion, and urge the public to get behind initiatives like those mentioned here, and to help create more global MPAs.  If we want our children to experience the same jaw-dropping moments in the water that we have had the privileges to engage, then we must advocate for more marine protected environments.
  • Youth Diving With a Purpose: Maritime Archaeology Camp with National Park Service

    These past two weeks have been what I commonly refer to as a ‘fieldwork bubble’ where the rest of the world falls out of my purview and my only focus is the project at hand. I have been down in the Florida Keys with a group called Diving With a Purpose (DWP) (referred to in this post) and the National Park Service Submerged Resources Center

    In 2011, I met the Founder of DWP, Ken Stewart, on a boat in the Atlantic Ocean side of Cape Town, looking for a shipwreck with the Slave Wrecks Project. DWP is a maritime archaeological advocacy course. We annually take a team of lay divers to document shipwrecks for the National Park Service (usually in Florida) where I am a DWP Maritime Archaeologist and Head of the DWP Research team. When Ken and I met, we immediately discovered our mutual goals of bringing the knowledge and preservation of underwater cultural resources to young people, so we helped create Youth Diving With a Purpose (YDWP), and had our inaugural session last July 2013. 

    Biscayne National Park, 2013

    YDWP is aimed at students who come from diverse communities but have been fortunate enough to learn how to scuba dive (either in school or from the help of some of our mentors). Our students represent an array of diverse communities from around the States and globally. The program is constructed to supply the young lay-diver (high school age) with knowledge to become underwater advocates for conservation and preservation through the pursuit of maritime archaeology. YDWP is a weeklong program teaching the basic skills of maritime archaeology in the Biscayne National Park, with the option for three-year renewal to become a DWP instructor in the adult course (two sessions in Florida and third session in Mozambique, Africa). The development of our youth component is a way for DWP to inspire the next generation of youth divers and give them solid maritime leads for their higher education and career goals.

    YDWP offers what other similar youth outreach programs cannot- that is a chance to take diving youth from diverse communities and actually get them in the water consecutively for years to come. Not only have our students fine-tuned their scuba skills, but they have been immersed in the fairly new scholarly pursuit of maritime archaeology. Maritime archaeology is only just becoming well known amongst the broader community of terrestrial archaeologists. As such, diversity is under-represented in this professional sphere, and YDWP aims to change those figures by teaching our students the necessary skills to become successful candidates for university programs and professional fellowships in maritime archaeology or similar subjects. Already our older students are off to pursue marine majors at universities around the United States this coming fall (Texas A&M, University of Miami, PennState, etc..). Our record of accomplishment as professionals, divers and mentors, all of whom are unpaid dedicated volunteers, are helping inspire the next generation of divers and scientists and giving them concrete ways to get there. Through YDWP mentorship, the students will develop their goals for their futures, gain a greater appreciation for the oceanic environment and the cultural heritage that is threatened on a daily basis. They will take this knowledge with them into their communities at home, at school, and when they enter the workforce.

    So for the last few weeks, I have been spending my time with this fantastic and successful group of high school and young college students. The course is divided up by different teaching focuses on the tenets of maritime archaeology. The first day is full day of presentations about the NPS, the Slave Wrecks Project, and the skills/wreck that we will be working on for the project. This is followed by an intensive afternoon of setting up a mock shipwreck and working on the skills we have just gone over. The next two days are typically boat days, where we are on the wreck doing a full survey, setting up the baseline, doing offset points, doing trilateration mapping, and in-situ drawings of artifacts/features on the site. Then we normally have a day back on land to reflect and discover any measurements or drawings that need to be retaken/redrawn. This year we had the boat three days in a row however, so we didn’t get to do as much on land mapping to create a composite site map (usually the final product), because we had a community service project up in Delray Beach, Fl. The community service aspect is an important part of our YDWP outreach, to engage local kids to becoming more interested in underwater cultural resources but also in the big blue ocean that is in their backyards. 



    Every time I see our group of students, which for some is often throughout the year, I become more proud and in awe of their accomplishments and motivations to overcome their individual challenges. It sounds incredibly cliché to say all of these things but I have become all the more motivated for my own professional and personal goals, just by spending time with them. The connection that the mentors and mentees have at YDWP is one that I find unmatched in most other situations that I find myself working, and I am sure that can be said for most in the program. In my experience, it isn’t typical for an archaeological project to have such a real world impact on young people’s lives, so for me, this goes far and above typical fieldwork experience and I greatly look forward to many years as a YDWP mentor and friend. 

  • The ArchaeoVenturers Project: Advocating for the 21st Century Scientist

     

    The ArchaeoVenturers Project: Advocating for the 21st Century Scientist
    ArchaeoVenturers are more than just archaeologists and anthropologists.  They are scientists and advocates who use activism, academia, and innovation for the advancement of society and culture.  These renaissance (wo)men venture beyond the boundaries of the excavation and explore science across disciplines in the constantly changing global environment.

    Jumping right into the big questions:

    What exactly is The ArchaeoVenturers Project and why are we doing it?

    The ArchaeoVenturers Project started as an idea to bring more attention to women who are breaking the glass ceiling in science, and in particular in our own favorite field – archaeology. As we sought ways to reach out to the next generation – the key to the future of science – the project blossomed into a web series and social media platform to bring attention to the individuals and the work that is inspiring to us.

    Why ArchaeoVenturers?

    – Thoughts from ‘The Digger’

    guess who is the dinosaur?

    guess who is the dinosaur?

    So why am I doing this? That’s a story that starts a long long time ago…

    As a kid growing up in Ohio, I didn’t own a single Barbie, and for my 8th birthday, running around in dirt-smeared dinosaur t-shirts, I was ecstatic to receive a rock tumbler as a gift from my parents. All in all, I wasn’t a typical little girl – archaeology has been called “the peeping tom of the sciences” so yeah, you could call me a tomboy.

    Growing up before the days of DVR and Dish, there were few to no female archaeologists or scientists represented on popular television. Today, there are literally a thousand channels and still women remain under-represented in the public sphere. There are so many individuals out there who are not only doing incredible work that pushes boundaries in their fields both professionally and socially, but often they are overcoming obstacles to do so.

    I have been fortunate to be surrounded by strong women my whole life – no one in my family ever told me I couldn’t do something, and that left my world open to anything, it helped make me who I am today. I wanted to help create a venue that reached out to young people – and especially all of the other dirt covered, Barbie-less little girls out there – to show that science is awesome, and no matter who you are or what your gender is, that you can do things that change the world. There are incredible people doing innovative work every day, those are the people our girls should have available to them to look up to – not the reality stars of the world that dominate the social media sphere.

    – Thoughts from ‘The Diver’

    destined to swim amongst them...

    destined to swim amongst them…

    I, on the other hand, had too many Barbie dolls to count, and some very likely ended up in the dirt with me…in a sandbox…in Brooklyn.

    There is one incident however, devoid of archaeology, that sticks with me even until this day, and highlights the very reason ArchaeoVenturers is important to me: I went to elementary school with a very small class, and I was a very ‘girly’ girl until the 4th grade- I am talking pink and ribbons, you name it, I wore it, but I did this all while playing sports and running around with ‘the boys’. Then in the middle of that year, one of my girl friends said “you wear a dress to school every single day, can’t you dress normal and wear pants like everybody else?” Well, I literally took this girl so seriously that I didn’t wear another dress until well into high school. Being a tomboy became my existence because it was easier to hide the fact that I wanted to be a girly girl under all those flannel baggy shirts. I was afraid to express that I loved ‘roughing it’ all while wanting to be a lady on the outside.

    For me, this is where the ArchaeoVenturers Project comes in; I want to show other young girls, and boys, that no one else should be able to define how you get to represent yourself. In the field of archaeology, there tends to be this stark contrast between over sexualized or over frumpy – for both genders! Usually, women, because they want to be taken more seriously in the field, tend to go over to the more conservative end but why should that be? Can’t we decide that if we want to be somewhere in the middle – an intelligent covered in dirt archaeologist by day, and dressed up with red lipstick in heels by night – that it should be our decision?

    Some of the most interesting people I work with are youth from my maritime archaeology summer camp. It’s students like them that inspire me to make better choices and want to leave better impressions for the next generation. I hope that The ArchaeoVenturers Project brings archaeology, history and science in new and creative ways to a broader public, who are often regrettably left out of most academic conversations about their own past. This project will be a success to me, if even one young boy or girl becomes excited about their future because of the solutions that we help bring to light.

    Stay Tuned Each Week For A New Episode of The ArchaeoVenturers Project (youtube.com/ArchaeoVenturers)
    Tweet us (@ArchaeoVenturer) your thoughts on why you’re interested in ArchaeoVenturers! Or any similar standout moments from your childhood? We’d love to hear them!
    #ArchaeoVenturers #ArchaeoActivists
  • Treasure Hunter Barry Clifford: ‘Santa Maria’ Access Denied

    Here is an update to my post about Barry Clifford, the treasure hunter who discovered the Whydah and ‘discoverer‘ of what he believes to be Christopher Columbus’ flagship, the Santa Maria.

    This post is also featured on The Antiquities Coalition blog posted on Monday, July 14th 2014.

    On July 7, the Haitian Minister of Culture, Monique Rocourt, publicly stated that the Haitian Government has revoked the permit of famed treasure hunter Barry Clifford’s on the alleged Santa Maria site. When the discovery news first went public back in May 2014, UNESCO was asked for
    Barry Clifford’s photograph of the alleged Santa Maria
    wreck. Credit: CNN



    Minister Rocourt also pointed out that although Clifford had announced to the public that he had discovered this site, it had actually previously been studied by the University of Florida back in the 1970s-80s. Maritime archaeologists – trained academics and scientists – who don’t harbor the same focus on profit and fame over proper research, would have done their due diligence by conducting a full research analysis and likely have left Christopher Columbus out of the equation, until there was concrete proof of this allegation.
    As to the ‘state of emergency’ invoked by Clifford concerning this site, the Haitian Government and UNESCO have also rejected this claim, as the wreck remains protected by the natural elements and sediments, meaning immediate danger is not imminent. Doing a full excavation would do more harm than good in both the short and long term. The Council has cautiously recommended that some archaeological fieldwork will continue on this site but only under the auspices of UNESCO’s technical assistance. Their team will likely survey the site in August of this year.
    This is an example of what many maritime archaeologists face – their efforts are not only focused on research but on struggling to counteract the claims and extensive financial flows of treasure hunters worldwide. It is governments in the developing world that need to recognize the difference between claims of grandeur and hard scientific fact. Even small decisions to restrict actions by alleged archaeologists; help foster a scientific and knowledgeable environment.

    Treasure Hunter Barry Clifford discussing his ‘discovery’
    on CNN. Credit: World News

    This situation becomes even more interesting beyond the Santa Maria discovery. A simple news search shows that media coverage of this decision has only been covered by Haitian or foreign language media outlets. Once the initial announcement via the mass media was released in May to the American press, there has been little to no coverage of these developments since May in English-language outlets.
    This illustrates a trend in American sensationalist media where only the exciting or provoking news is made public, while the follow-up stories that are grounded in reality, are forgotten or dismissed. If the American public were able to know about why Clifford’s permit was revoked or why treasure hunters and archaeologists are ethically at odds, it would foster a new thoughtful perspective on cultural resources management and site preservation. The media is an integral part in spreading awareness of issues surrounding our cultural resources.  

     their technical assistance to determine the validity of Clifford’s claims and assess his permit and archaeological methods. UNESCO has since determined that the methodology and diver team employed by Clifford does not comply with the standards set by the Scientific Council of the UNESCO Convention.


  • ‘Youth Diving With a Purpose’ Maritime Archaeology Camp Article via The Miami Herald

    The Miami Herald
    Posted on Thu, Aug. 07, 2014

    Youth diving group recruiting new members for important work in waters of Biscayne National Park

      A member of Youth Diving with a Purpose takes measurements on the wreck of an unidentified 18th century sailing vessel in Biscayne National Park.
    Yasmeen Smalley / Courtesy photo
    A member of Youth Diving with a Purpose takes measurements on the wreck of an unidentified 18th century sailing vessel in Biscayne National Park.
    Over several days in July, more than a dozen teens and 20-somethings from around the United States and Africa worked as volunteer marine researchers in the clear, calm waters of Biscayne National Park.
    Scuba-diving 20 feet deep to the wreck of an early 18th century sailing vessel of unknown origin, they took measurements, placed small flags on outlying artifacts and made scale drawings to create an overall site plan. They relished the project — and so did the National Park Service.

    “The more documentation we have, the more we can inform the public,” park superintendent Brian Carlstrom said.
    Said volunteer diver Rachel Stewart, 18, a recent high school graduate from Nashville: “It’s fun working the wrecks. You get to work on a lot of skills that all come together with the diving thing. I like the archaeology, but I like the biology, as well.”

    Stewart and her fellow divers were recruited by the nonprofit group Youth Diving with a Purpose headed by retired Nashville business executive Kenneth Stewart, no relation to Rachel. Stewart, 69, has been bringing adult volunteer divers to Biscayne for the past 10 years to help the park’s cultural resources staff document scores of archaeological sites. But this is only the second year that Stewart has brought young people, supported by grants and donations. He says it’s up to them to keep the project going.

    “Most Diving with a Purpose members are 50 and older,” he said. “If we don’t do something quick, we’ll be Geriatric Diving with a Purpose. We need young people to continue this legacy.”

    Gabriel Taliaferrow didn’t take much convincing. The 19-year-old student at SUNY Stony Brook in New York had been researching careers that involved scuba-diving when Stewart told him about the program. A marine biology major, Taliaferrow loves underwater archaeology.

    “We’re writing history by going underwater and mapping different shipwreck sites,” he said. “I really like history. Maybe it could be a career choice after college.”

    The students worked in buddy teams, with one person taking measurements and the other recording data on waterproof paper. Around them, hogfish grazed in the sandy fringes of the shipwreck while lobsters peeked out from beneath coral heads that have grown over the old timbers.

    After two summers of underwater work in the park, Rachel Stewart said she has noticed a decline in the health of coral reefs. Her experience has piqued her interest in studying environmental engineering as an incoming freshman at Tennessee Tech.
    “I want to do water resources,” she said. “I want to work on the water since it’s all coming together in one place.”

    Two summers of conducting underwater mapping in South Florida is about to provide the young people with an even greater opportunity: performing groundbreaking research on the wrecks of slave ships off Mozambique in Southeast Africa next summer.

    Youth Diving with a Purpose has teamed with maritime archeologist Justine Benanty of the “Slave Wrecks Project” — a collaborative research program on the transatlantic slave trade from the 17th through 19th centuries with George Washington University, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Park Service and the government of South Africa.

    Benanty said the project will be the first to archaeologically document ships that wrecked with slaves on board. Other slave ship documentation, she said, was performed after the vessels were converted and reused for another purpose.

    “This is no game,” Benanty said. “It’s meaningful work that will help future generations preserve underwater resources.”

    Kudzi Victorino can’t wait. The 33-year old Mozambique native — her country’s first female scuba diving instructor — has been training with Benanty and Stewart’s group since last summer to become among the first to survey the wrecks of slave ships off the African coast.

    “People say there are a lot of them, but nobody knows where they are,” Victorino said. “For me, it’s important because it’s history that is lost so our kids that didn’t know about this, we can share their stories with everyone.”

    Carlstrom, Biscayne’s superintendent, is happy to have the young divers working in his park. “A very cool program,” Carlstrom said. “What better way to get kids interested in the park than have them learn underwater archaeology? We engage the next generation of stewards so they understand and appreciate and want to take care of the park themselves.”


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    Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/08/06/v-print/4275735/youth-diving-group-recruiting.html#storylink=cpy

  • Grandiose Archaeological Claims: Do they Help or Hurt the Discipline?

    The media has always thrived on the next ‘big’ archaeological discovery- whether the claims are made by amateurs or professionals, the media circus remains the same. We as the public, crave a connection to our history and heritage, regardless of initial authenticity. Some dubious examples that come to mind are the Etruscan terracotta warriors, the James Ossuary, the Kensington Runestone, or more recently a British maritime archaeologist claiming to have found missing flight MH370 thousands of miles from the search zone.

    One particular story that has recently grabbed media attention is the purported ‘discovery’ of the Santa Maria, the largest of three ships sailed to the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1492. The discovery was announced by Barry Clifford, who in several articles, is classified as a maritime archaeologist, while in others, as an underwater explorer. Make no mistake, Mr. Clifford is not an archaeologist. He may certainly claim to be one, but his career has been built upon the salvaging of shipwrecks around the globe. The practice of shipwreck salvage is not applicable to the protection and recovery of evidence relating to submerged landscapes and resources, and is by no means, archaeology (not to be confused with rescue archaeology which is legit). However, with all of these mainstream news outlets describing him as an archaeologist, it gives a level of recognition and legitimization to his claim that he wouldn’t have otherwise, regardless of how the archaeological community feels.

    With several historians and scholars already refuting his claim, I am not concerned with whether it is or it isn’t the Santa Maria. Most certainly, a shipwreck has been found, and has been investigated since 2003, but whether it is indeed the Santa Maria is certainly too early to determine, if at all possible. Although, UNESCO and the Haitian Government are taking the claim very seriously. As a maritime archaeologist, I know firsthand how long it can take to identify submerged remains, if one can ever say for certain.

    What worries me about this trend with fantastical archaeological claims, is that it seems to be intended more as a PR campaign vs. grounded in scientific reality. Clifford isn’t sure whether this is Columbus’ ship, but now, he will never run out of funding sources. As a business strategy, follows the typical commercial salvage investor model (Kleeberg 2013), but as a pseudoscientist, it seems fraudulent.

    When the Santa Maria first was in the news, friends and family bombarded me with queries about whether or not it is true, and why I hadn’t hopped on the first flight to Haiti to dive on the excavation. The reason I have held back, as I imagine many of us have, is because these types of discoveries only hinder our mission when justifiable claims are in fact proven. There is too much crossover between pseudo and legitimate archaeology, and as referred to in my first post, the public needs to know that an archaeologist’s priority is not buried treasure or to intentionally mislead, but instead as the Society for American Archaeology says, “is to expand understanding and appreciation of humanity’s past as achieved through systematic investigation of the archaeological record.”

    - Do you think these unsubstantiated discoveries that capture the public’s attention help or hurt the archaeological discipline?