Shipwrecks and maritime archaeology

Shipwrecks and maritime archaeology

By David Gibbins and Jonathan Adams

World Archaeology, Vol. 32:3 (2001)

Abstract: Shipwrecks are the most numerous and distinctive type of site studied by maritime archaeologists. Their uniform characteristics, regardless of date, place and type, mean that virtually all wrecks can be investigated using similar methodologies and research strategies. The contributions to this issue of World Archaeology demonstrate both these common features and the wide variety of archaeological and historical contexts in which wreck data can be placed. They also reflect the truly global nature of underwater archaeology as it has evolved over the past decade, with many sites investigated in previously undeveloped regions and an attendant increase in cultural resource management. This period has also seen significant developments in theory. A distinctive agenda is developing which emphasizes the unusual quality of maritime data and the possibilities of inductive analysis, yet seeks to expand and diversify the contexts in which ships and their material culture are viewed; new approaches have been derived from symbolic, contextual and critical archaeology, and from wide-ranging socio-economic models. Diversifying the contexts in which wreck evidence is interpreted underlines its essential richness and its unique contribution to archaeology.

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