Thursday, September 13, 2007

Shipwreck Archaeology





Greetings! For faithful readers, I suppose this is a reintroduction. I’m Katie and I was fortunate enough to be a NPS Archaeology intern for an all too brief stint last summer. I had to go back to Florida to finish my undergraduate degree in Anthropology, but I’m finally back! I thought my first experience here was absolutely too good to be true, so it’s hard to believe I now have the chance to continue learning from Ken and Susanna.
We got off to a roaring start this week with two surveys of a shipwreck at. It felt great to be back out on the water! This was my first experience with shipwreck archaeology so I wasn’t sure what to expect. We entered a shallow, protected cove to find, well… it looked like nothing at all. We saw plenty of sand, fish, coral, and some beautiful anemones but, no sign of a ship. I got inspired when Ken started fanning around, what looked like and ordinary pile of rocks, and found that it was actually a ballast pile and peice of metal left from the ship. After a few false alarms (I thought an old coconut was a cannonball), I actually managed to find something. It was a shiny piece of copper sheathing with one little tack still hanging from the corner. The salt water had turned it gold, teal and pink and Ken said it was probably used to cover the bottom of a historic ship. After consulting with Peter Fix, an archaeologist and conservator at Texas A&M University, Ken found out that copper sheathing was used for the first time in 1761 to prevent marine worms from damaging the bottoms of wooden ships. The HMS Alarm was the first ship to recieve this form of protection. This date corresponds with several other artifacts that were recovered from the site in 2002 including a lead gaming peice and a pearlwear ceramic bowl rim shard. I got a refresher course on proper collection technique and learned how to use the GPS to record its exact location. Ken also found a piece of wood from the shipwreck with hand wrought, iron nails intact. We photographed it and recorded its location before burying it back in the sand. I was extremely excited to bring the copper back to the lab and I can’t wait to work on preserving it with Amber!

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