NOTE: This article is a sligt rewrite of a brilliant paper written by Mohammad Sherman Bin Sauffi William Jinep. Link to original: https://www.academia.edu/6096296/Maritime_Archaeology_in_Sarawak
Archaeology comes directly from Greek arkhaiologia “the study of ancient things;” or more detailed from the Greek words, “archaeo” meaning ancient, primitive, beginning of things and “ology” meaning theory of science. Basically, archaeology means the studies and learning the material remains of the past. Archaeology is divided into two areas, land archaeology and underwater archaeology. Land archaeology is involving the techniques of observation, discovery, excavation, registration, recording and conservation. Even though the practice of underwater archaeology is similar to land archaeology the environment of working is different. Underwater archaeology is the systematic study of the past human life, behaviors, activities and culture, including the remains of sites, structures and artifacts. Evidence found underwater can be explored by research, survey, excavation, registration, conservation, and documentations. The shipwrecks are like a time capsule yet to discover and she also carries inside her the cultural, societies and cargoes. So, a well-planned and systematic approach must be applied to ensure the historical value need to save and share to the rest of the world about the findings. Any undertaking focused on archaeology need to outline the responsibility they are willing to take on regarding heritage affairs to safeguard historical objects, monuments and sites which considered a heritage of the people.
Maritime as a part of archaeology disipline
Maritime archaeology, in general term, is always related with water or underwater environment. Maritime archaeology is a study of not only the material evidence, but it is also including the social, politic and economy aspects of human activities on the sea and inlands waterways. Some says it is Nautical Archaeology, Marine Archaeology or Underwater Archaeology. However, if we look closely Coastal Archaeology, Nautical Archaeology, Marine Archaeology and Underwater Archaeology are relatively new sub-discipline of archaeology with it’s own distinguished discipline, theory, practice and principles.
Archaeology as a discipline is the study of past human behavioral systems within the social, religious, economic, political, biological, geological and geographic contexts. To accomplish such studies, archaeology has developed philosophical and methodological ties to many academic fields, including anthropology, history, classical studies, linguistics, art and architecture, natural history, physical sciences, biological sciences, computer and mathematical science and other specialized fields that combine to assist the documentation and to understand the human past.
Coastal archaeology is the archaeological study of humans and their interactions with the sea and can include sites that are not underwater but that are related to maritime activities such as lighthouse, port constructions or shore-based whaling stations and community. Harbor works, port cities, whaling stations, locks, bridges, and fishing weirs, have all contribute valuable information to the history of seafaring, fishing, commerce, naval warfare and technology.
Marine archaeology is the archaeological study of material remains created by humans that are submerged in the marine (freshwater or saltwater) environment. Marine archaeology also includes the different study areas including Paleothnobotany for recovery of botanical remains from archaeological sites, Paleopathology for search of evidence on human skeleton remains of historic and prehistoric populations that submerged underwater, Paleonthnozoology for study of how humans interaction with nonhuman such as animals in the past and include the study about waters tides, currents, wave actions, silting and marine organisms.
Nautical archaeology is the archaeological study of ships and shipbuilding. Like maritime archaeology it can include sites that are not underwater but are related to ships including ship burials, shipwreck remains in the terrestrial environment and shipbuilding or shipbuilding yards. Most recently been known as hydroarchaeology, a theory formulated by Richard A. Gould (1993) in his article, Hydroarchaeology: A Subject Framework, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. He has proposed of a new name for the field with a theoretical and methodological structure to justify the terms basis of the integration of topics of research, location of research and field methods. Nautical archeology is most commonly pursued through the excavation of ships and boats, including wrecks, derelicts, and deliberate burials, but other types of sites can be equally important. However, the field should not be confused with underwater archaeology even in majority of modern nautical archaeological excavations have been underwater. Nautical archaeology also include ancient burial with the using of boats as coffin and their belief on connecting to next world.
Underwater archaeology is the systematic study of human life; behaviors, activities and cultures using physical (or materials) remains (including sites, structures and artifacts) as well as other evidence that may exist beneath fresh (or Inland) waters or beneath salt (or marine, deep water or shallow water) waters. It may be visible on the bed of the water body or seabed or buried beneath the sediment. The procedure is similar to land archaeology but in different environment, however it has 4 main areas: Survey, Excavation, Conservation and Site Stabilization. Well planned archaeological works from the form of committee to organize the work will compromise safety, regulations, legislations, transportations, technical and mechanical equipments, archaeologists, surveyors, conservators, photographer, mapping technician, time and the most important to find funding for the project.
The definitions and theory about maritime archaeology have been discuss by archaeologists for many years but the ideas and theory itself have evolves. Many archaeologists have their own charismatic figure inside them and the new breed of archaeologist will continue to evolve and give some new interpretations about archaeology and practice. However, the discipline is still the same in archaeology, is to study, to research, to excavate, to conserve, to register, to document and to share the knowledge with the world. The work as archaeologist have a very strict discipline, not just going out on a field works, claiming your dues, make your reports and simply forget about it. Why? Because the works is done, why bother to do it again. I don’t recall this article as conclusions, because as a profession, in archaeology is an occupation that must be practiced in accordance with accepted methodological practices and ethical standards of conduct that have evolved over the course of the long history of the discipline and within relevant local, national and international legislative framework. Ideas may evolve, so does archaeology, every angle has a different perceptions on way of thinking, contribute ideas, based on research, findings and knowledge development through readings, experience and openness attitude.
- Jeremy Green, Maritime Archaeology in South and East Asia, Western Australian Maritime Museum, Printed Article from Maritime Underwater Nautica Archaeology.
- Linda Ellis, Archaeological Methods and Theory, Garland Publishing Inc. 2000, New York.
- Mark Steniforth and Dolores Elkin, Underwater and Maritime Archaeology, Paper Presentation for the Fifth World Archaeology Congress, June 21st until 25th 2003.