Underwater Archaology of the Bahamas and Florida Keys Draft #1

This topic submitted by Kat Byerly ( byerlyka@miamioh.edu) at 2:06 AM on 4/9/03.

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Tropical Field Courses -Western Program-Miami University

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 today’s 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. Areas of study
A) Underwater settlements
B) Shipwrecks

III. Shipwrecks and their stories

IV. The future of underwater archaeology
A) Groups interested in the pursuit of marine archaeology
B) Present projects
C) Conservation of both the ships and the environment


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.

Gidus, Thomas. “Recovery Salvage”. 2003. 29 March 2003. Recovery Salvage Site

Ships of Discovery

Underwater Archaeology

Florida Archaeology

University of West Florida

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