Let’s get the word out
Phil Harding, Archaeologist
25 July 2016
Now that the Marine Antiquities Scheme is launched, we want people in the know to encourage others to use the scheme. It’s exciting to be in the initial days, with the hope of seeing some great archaeological discoveries over time. So, please do share the good news and encourage more people to record their underwater finds.
I learnt to dive for Channel 4’s Time Team and got the chance to see some pretty incredible wrecks. The HMS Colossus in the Isles of Scilly, the Grace Dieu in the River Hamble. But there are a lot more wrecks that aren’t well documented. They come and go in terms of visibility and need recording. Many are now broken up, with the only remnants isolated artefacts scattered across the seabed. These are objects that tell vivid stories. Stories of vessels in terrible trouble with crews aboard.
Marine archaeology is also about much more than wrecks. For one group of archaeologists, I was asked to bring up any fragments of pottery I found on a dive. The pieces I found looked like bits of old flower pots to me but to the team they gave real insights. There were pieces of medieval pottery, Roman, North African, which showed trade links and the movement of people and objects over time.
As divers, we might not know what it is we’re finding, what value it has. By recording it, we’re making it accessible to experts and finding out about the history that we’ve held in our hands. We can leave these objects in place, while still making them available for study.
There is an incredible lost world underwater, a landscape once populated by people. Somebody once gave me a stone age hand axe they’d pulled up in their nets while fishing in the North Sea. This was a dream come true for me, and it was found not by an archaeologist digging, but by a fisherman. I’ve gone diving to try to find one but I never have.
What I wonder is, how many underwater discoveries have been found and lost? Now, thankfully we’ve got the Marine Antiquities Scheme, so people can easily record objects they find. Please do help us get the word out. This is an exciting time for underwater archaeology.