SEMINARS AND COLLOQUIA
Archaeology: Issues & Logistics
For those of you who could not make it to MIT for the March edition of our deep-arch seminar series, here is a quick recap. For those who did attend, please feel free to correct any mistakes or omissions found below.
- Brendan Foley
We began with the usual introductions of the people present. David Mindell then gave an overview of the purpose of the Deep Water Archaeology Working Group:
The DWAWG is a forum in which participants from various disciplines and interests are able to engage in "mutual data download" in order to facilitate understanding of each other's expertise, objectives, and research requirements. Deep water archaeology can mutually benefit both scientists and social scientists from several fields. For example, ocean engineers are seeking new ways to employ their technology, and deep water archaeology presents challenging intellectual problems for robotics system development and testing. Archaeologists need to become familiar with the capabilities of ROV platforms in order to construct their research designs for operations in deep water. The Working Group will provide one space for this dialogue to develop and to contribute to both fields.
David Mindell then gave an overview of the logistical and technological components of the Skerki Bank 1997 project. Logistically, interdisciplinary projects such as this one are extremely complex. The Skerki Bank 1997 project was put together through the combination of various institutions, all of which provided some portion of the funding, equipment, and/or personnel. Among those institutions were:
- - - Institute For Exploration
- - - MIT
- - - Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Deep Submergence Labs
- - - U.S. Navy (ONR, NR-1, Carolyn Chouest)
- - - National Geographic Society
- - - Johns Hopkins
- - - Boston University
Each of these organizations had specific goals and requirements to fulfill during the project: In addition, the science of archaeology had to be performed to the highest professional standards.
Fortunately on this cruise these varied interests and goals meshed well, and every group came away from the project with the needed results. It is important to keep these considerations in mind when planning future projects.
Here in MIT's Program in Science, Technology, and Society we study the interaction among scientists and scholars from disparate disciplines as they come together to form a new field. Deep water archaeology will necessarily entail the fusion of ocean engineering, (including mechanical and electrical engineering), archaeology, and oceanography. It is likely that scholars from other disciplines such as geomorphology, biology, and computer science will also play a role in the development of this field. Thus, these deep water projects are a laboratory in which we in STS can study ways to facilitate and catalyze the births of new scientific fields.
A series of slides from the Skerki Bank 97 project were shown in order to introduce the technology to those unfamiliar with it, and a number of slides depicted artifacts recovered during the Skerki project. Anna and Brendan discussed the significance of some of the objects. The conversation then covered various imaging techniques employed during the project, including digital photomosaicing and the Imagenix scanning sonar. The limitations and strengths of each type of imaging system were discussed. Hard copies of the microbathymetry plot from Skerki D and the photomosaic from Skerki D were passed around for inspection. Images from Amphora Alley II were also passed around and we speculated on the significance of the amphora alley features.
Questions that resulted from the meeting included:
Larry Stager: Excavation methodology. Hypothetical wreck X holds hundreds of amphorae. Ideally, this top layer of amphora should be removed in order to examine the lower strata of the wreck. Is this feasible? How could it be done? Should it be done?
Kenneth Mayo: Budgetary considerations. How much did the Skerki '97 project cost? What was the breakdown of those costs? How much time and equipment was donated? How much actual cash had to be raised from sponsors? What hidden costs exist? How does a project leader develop a budget for this type of expedition?
All: Sponsors. Returning to the points raised by David Mindell in his opening remarks, we discussed the diverse funding and support sources for the Skerki '97 project and suggested possible sources for future projects.
Anna and Brendan: What new information can be derived from the deep water sites? Is the information yielded form these sites comparable to that offered by shallow water sites? How will using these new (to archaeologists) systems in this novel environment affect methodology and research designs? How can the archaeological community make the most of limited resources? Should each isolated wreck site be examined extensively? Or, should most deep water archaeological research be directed towards tracing broader sweeps of history by engaging in area surveys?
As soon as the date for the next meeting is fixed, a note will be circulated here to keep everyone advised.
Best regards to all,
- Catherine Alexander, archaeological illustrator
- Susan Cohen, Harvard (doctoral student, archaeology)
- Glenn Dash, Dash Foundation
- Brendan Foley, MIT (doctoral student, STS)
- Alex Gantos, BU & Black Sea Trade Route Project
- Michael Hamilton, Boston University (archaeology)
- Daniel Master, Harvard (doctoral student, archaeology)
- Victor Mastone, Commonwealth of Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources
- Kenneth Mayo, Black Sea Trade Route Project
- Anna Marguerite McCann, Boston University (archaeology)
- David Mindell, MIT (STS)
- David Smart, Harvard & Black Sea Trade Route Project (archaeology)
- Larry Stager, Harvard (archaeology)
-Sarah Webster, MIT (student, mechanical engineering)