Institute of Archaeology

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Underwater Archaeology: Techniques and Methods

The course introduces the students to up-to-date technologies, methods and strategies for investigation of submerged sites (settlements / constructions / wrecks) and cultural landscapes.

Central themes are:

  • survey (remote sensing etc.),
  • identification and dating of archaeological features under water,
  • excavation,
  • taking cores and samples,
  • registration / documentation,
  • handling of finds / in-situ conservation,
  • understanding of sea level changes,
  • landscape modification under water, and
  • analysis and interpretation of sites and landscapes under water.

Aims of the course

The aims of the course are to give the students an overview and understanding of:

  • General survey and investigation methods/strategies in archaeology under water, including geophysical methods and sampling techniques.
  • Submerged cultural landscapes, settlements, harbors and landing places, defensive structures, etc.
  • The dating and determination of boats and shipwrecks.
  • Practical conservation and management issues related to underwater sites.

It is not intended to provide training in specialized topics such as GIS and modeling of underwater landscapes, for which there are separate courses.


On successful completion of this course a student should:

  • Have gained a detailed understanding of up-to-date techniques and methods of relevance for underwater archaeology.
  • Have developed an understanding of the strategies employed in archaeological survey and investigation under water.
  • Have acquired a good understanding of archaeological registration and documentation under water.
  • Have developed a range of research-oriented skills appropriate for conducting archaeology under water.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course you should have acquired a good understanding of maritime archaeology, in particular:

  • The relationship between prehistoric/historic cultures and landscapes in former and present land areas.
  • The interpretation of different types of data related to underwater sites and landscapes.
  • The independent assessment and interpretation of archaeological sites under water and archaeological evidence from such sites.
  • The preservation of underwater sites in situ and handling of objects from such sites.
  • The processing of data from investigations of sites and cultural landscapes under water in accordance with current models and theories.

Teaching Methods

Teaching will be a mixture of interlinked lectures and seminars, lasting for 2 hours. Seminars have weekly, assessed required readings for which you are required to submit weekly synopses of 100-150 words for each article/chapter in advance to thecourse coordinator by email AND as a cumulative hard copy at the end of term 2. You are also expected to have done sufficient independent research to be able to follow and actively to contribute to discussion. It is your responsibility to find these readings, either online or in the library.

  • Code: ARCLG160
  • Credits: 30
  • Coordinator: Joe Flatman
  • Prerequisite: There are no formal prerequisites for this course.
  • Handbook: 

For registered students

  • Moodle page:
  • Turnitin id:
  • Reading list:

Availability: Not running in 2011-12

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