Marine Archaeology and Wrecks in the Bahamas FINAL

This topic submitted by Kat Byerly ( at 1:01 PM on 6/11/03.

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If you have ever seen Indiana Jones, you would know why I want to be an archaeologist, despite the Hollywood glamour. If you have read Clive Cussler and his thrilling stories of underwater adventure – and misadventure – you would understand why I love marine archaeology. There are so many things we can learn from the underwater cities and wrecks that little the marine landscape, and SCUBA diving for such sites has a romantic, mysterious appeal to it. This is why I have chosen to study the shipwrecks of the Caribbean.

Underwater archaeology, also known the world over as nautical, marine, or maritime archaeology, is the study of the material remains of people, much like normal archaeology. The one main difference, which creates a whole new area of anthropological study, is that the excavations take place almost exclusively under the water, focusing on the interactions between people and the water.

Caribbean marine archaeology is, by far, one of the most important areas of this new area of study. During the first thirty years of European exploration of the New World, over one hundred ships were lost in the areas around what is now sometimes called the West Indies. Because those areas became well-traveled paths of important European trade routes, many wrecks occurred around todays Florida Keys and Bahamas, including the wreck of the San Pedro, off the Florida Key of Isla Morada.

Such wrecks are often referred to as a non-renewable resource by many archaeologists. Spanish galleons full of gold and treasure, as the legends go, will never again cross the Atlantic only to perish on the Caribbean’s beautiful and yet undeniably deadly coral reefs. Because of this, Florida has begun to develop a series of underwater parks in order to preserve the shipwrecks as much as possible.


I. Introduction
A) What is marine archaeology?
B) Why study it?
C) Techniques of excavation

II. Shipwrecks and their stories

III. The future of underwater archaeology
A) National Parks
B) Interested Groups


Bass, George Fletcher. Archaeology Underwater. London: Thames & Hudson, 1966.

“Diving Into the Past: Theories, Techniques and Applications of Underwater Archaeology”. Conference on Underwater Archaeology. eds. June Drenning Holmquist and Ardis Hillman Wheeler. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society, 1964.

Encyclopedia of Underwater and Maritime Archaeology. James Delgado, ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997.

Lehihan, Daniel. Submerged. New York: The Newmarket Press, 2002;

Marx, Robert. Shipwrecks of the Western Hemisphere. New York: The World Publishing Company, 1971.

Pearson, Colin. Conservation of the Underwater Heritage. Stoneham, MA: Butterworths, 1987.

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