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Underwater Archaeology

In cooperation with the College’s Center for the Environment & Society, the Department of Anthropology is developing the resources to investigate and preserve a variety of submerged resources in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

The current focus is on the use of remote sensing to discover shipwrecks, wharf and shore structures, and inundated prehistoric sites. Surveys for these archaeological remains also are designed to collect information on natural resources such as submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), oyster reefs, and bottom types. In a single survey, multiple types of data can be collected.

The remote sensing instrument array includes

  • sidescan sonar
  • cesium magnetometer
  • fathometer
  • Swath (multibeam) RoxAnn bottom classification

Surveys using these instruments are controlled by computer, and positioning is provided by a satellite based Global Positioning System (GPS).

Students, faculty and staff from the Department of Sociology-Anthropology will run the surveys, assisted by the Center for Environment & Society.

Survey data will be analyzed in the Custom House and in the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) lab in Goldstein Hall.

Sonar images and other data are examined for evidence of archaeological sites such as shipwrecks.

The image to the right shows the wreck of a schooner in the Chesapeake Bay. An amazing amount of detail is visible, including deck fittings, hatch covers, and hull damage.

Data also reveals a wealth of environmental information. The image to the left shows a variety of bottom types, and sand ridges provide information on current.

After the data is analyzed, potentially interesting features are identified for further investigation. This often includes examination by divers.

If you would like additional information, or are interested in participating in the project, please contact Dr. John L. Seidel at 410-778-7756.