What is ARCHAEOLOGY?
Archaeology is the scientific study of human activity in the past through the analysis of material evidence left behind. This evidence can range from large structures (like a Mayan temple or a sunken ship) to the smallest grain of wheat. These forgotten and often times overlooked remnants help us to understand and unravel the mysteries of past human behavior, cultures, and ways of life.
What is an ECOFACT?
Ecofacts are naturally occurring objects or material used by or associated with humans. These could include seeds left behind by ancient farmers or mastodon bones left behind by normadic hunters. Even a chemically discolored layer of soil from discarded human garbage and waste is an ecofact.
So what exactly is MARITIME ARCHAEOLOGY?
Maritime Archaeology is a sub-discipline of archaeology. It specifically involves the study of past human interaction with rivers, lakes, and oceans. Most people imagine long lost sunken ships when they think of maritime archaeology but the study involves much more. Submerged cultural landscapes like a prehistoric native american village, the land based remains of a port side shipping facility, cargoes, and, of course, sunken vessels all fall under the realm of Maritime Archaeology.
Have you ever been digging in the garden and unearthed a rusty railroad spike, an arrow head, or fragment of old pottery? Maybe you've accidentally stumbled upon the crumbling foundation of a long forgotten structure while hiking in the woods? If yes, then its also more than likely you've curiously examined that unexpected discovery with a sort of fascination and wonder. Perhaps, you've even felt something more-a certain nostalgic connection to the people who used and built these artifacts. How did this unique object find its way to this particular place? Who owned it and when did they live? Where did they go? These, of course, are some of the questions archaeologists strive to answer.
In the following pages, we will go over some of the basics of Archaeology, from its early beginnings as a science to its modern methodology and 21st century tools.
Let's begin with some basic terminology.
What is a FEATURE?
Features are artifacts that are too big, too fragile, or cumbersome to ever collect and put in a museum. Features might include post holes from a village, an ancient road or garbage pit, and yes, even a massive sunken ship.
What is a SITE?
A site is a place where human activity in the past took place. It is a location where archaeologist can find artifacts, ecofacts, and features. For instance, a shipwreck may be a FEATURE, but the entire area encompassing the debris field of that shipwreck is the SITE.
What is an ARTIFACT?
Artifacts are any man-made object. They can be small like a prehistoric stone tool or even the discarded rock chips that were the byproduct of making that tool. Artifacts can also be large like a sunken ship that, in itself, is made up of or contains hundreds of smaller artifacts like pulleys, compasses, navigational tools, and personal effects.