4 comments on “Maritime cultural landscape: politics, power, and connectivity

  1. I’ll have to admit, at first I was a bit skeptical about the logic behind many of these dives for nautical archaeology. To me, it seemed just like a very expensive way to find some broken pots from a long dead civilization, with little no modern application. After the discussions in class and through browsing the MUA website, though, I am beginning to see the reasoning behind such dives. The spectrum of nautical archaeology is extremely broad, with everything from the copper oxhide ingots from Uluburun to Japanese planes from World War II in the ocean surrounding Saipan. These are excavations of enormous magnitude, with many applications relating to archaeology and history. At Uluburun, the items that were found can lead us to piece together a history of the ancient people of Egypt, Cyprus, Ugarit, and other lands. With a more detailed and precise history of these people, I think we will be better able to understand where we came from as a civilization. The most remarkable part, is that there is an endless amount of ancient artifacts just waiting to be discovered, and thus history will never be “solved” or figured out. I also think it is amazing how historians are able to piece together the history of a civilization simply from archaeological finds and some evidence from literature. The whole process is actually quite unbelievable, and I can’t wait to learn more about other archaeological excavations similar to this.

  2. I think one of the most fascinating aspects of our guest’s lecture was the importance put into the semantics of archaeology. What really stuck out was the difference between nautical sites and maritime sites and how some archaeologists would be offended if you confused the two. It’s wonderful how diverse underwater archaeology is to cause such a polarization of specialties.
    However, what captured my attention most was his third type of archaeological site: submerged sites/settlements. How wonderful would is be to strap on scuba gear and swim through a Neolithic settlement? I realize it’s not as simple as that, but I guess I let my imagination get away from me. But even to be able to see the statuary in the harbor of Alexandria, Egypt, I’m sure would have been a life changing experience.
    I know that technology has quite caught up to make this an easy endeavor, but I wish there was some way to be able to keep track of all the findings in the Black Sea as archaeologists start the very long process of excavating the sediments around the originally freshwater basin.

    While this is off topic, I thought I would post a link to an artist that this subject greatly reminds me of. Jason DeCairs Taylor is an underwater sculpture and because of the constant forces from the ocean, causes many of his pieces to quickly look old and ancient. It’s a neat idea, in my opinion.
    Link to his site: http://www.jasondecairestaylor.com/

  3. In the post, the Professor states that he finds that one of the two significant contributions of the underwater archaeological projects to archaeological research, is:

    “they investigate the dynamic long-term history of the edge between the lands and the seas- the cultural history of coastal settlements and harbors which are submerged due to geomorphological processes or catastrophic events- and therefore illustrate the fluidity of coastal environments, their vulnerability” (after the first paragraph).

    I find this opinion intriguing and agree with it because it allows me to understand the significance of maritime cultural landscapes in a different way. The idea that the “history of the edge between the lands and the seas…illustrate the fluidity of coastal environments, their vulnerability,” to me, speaks to the idea of constant movement and change along those edges of the earth. It hints to vulnerability, as the Professor points out, a beautiful and engaging aspect of coastal environments that underwater archaeological projects are communicating to us through history.
    This brings me to three thought-provoking questions written on one of the guest lecture’s slides:

    What are the effects of human settlement on islands in coastal environments, past and present?

    How do societies adapt or fail to adapt to changing coastal environments?

    Is coastal living sustainable?

    I am no expert. Thus I can’t provide in-depth answers to these questions. However, the maritime cultural landscapes can help inform and answer them.
    I believe it is the vulnerability of coastal environments that triggered these questions. They carry significance as they can inform future treatment of these landscapes and even affect how maritime cultural landscapes change with time.

    It would be of great value to further discuss this in class, the correlation between these underwater findings/projects/landscapes and the coastal environments, and understand other ways in which this branch of archeological research informs us of the past and the present.

  4. Something I was struck by from the guest lecture was the idea of reconstructions of shipwrecks, and why it is we do them? I think it is an important thing that we are able to do reconstructions on so many ships as we are able to truly see both technologies of the times as well as culture and even information about people (i.e. height, social structures, etc.)

    Another aspect is that of national pride and being able to make these shipwrecks demonstrate a culture’s ability to build and succeed, as in the case of many warships, if they have ships that survive clearly they were on the winning side of these battles, or merchant ships that were strong enough to survive in good condition after wrecks.

    Two particular examples came to mind for me, one of which is the viking ships in Roskilde, which our guest lecturer briefly mentioned. I visited these ships and when in Denmark the Danes will constantly tell you to go to Roskilde and see the viking ships as they are a huge source of national pride. Additionally, I thought it was interesting because I took a class on Nordic Mythology, but in this class we spend a lot of time learning about the viking culture, so the ships were an example of this, and it is interesting to see how the salvaging of these ships and seeing how the harbors were constructed was reflective of the culture and gave us insight into the context of the time of the viking age and when norse myths were popular.

    The second example I think of is the Vasa Museet in Stockholm, Sweden. The museum is literally built around a giant merchant ship that sunk before it even left the harbor. This is extremely interesting because it seems to be a technological fail on the Swede’s part, yet they have used the excavation of the ship in it’s highly preserved condition to learn a huge amount about the materials of the time: types of wood, paints, supplies, as well as cultural aspects: deities depicted on the ship, size of the crew, types of crew members, luggage the crew carried etc. The Swedes have used this ship to educate the public about more of the merchant culture of Sweden using the Vasa as a starting point.

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