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Maxwell School
Maxwell / Department of Anthropology

Maritime Archaeology

Maritime archaeology is the subdiscipline of archaeology that focuses on human interactions with the sea, lakes, and rivers.  Historically, the exploitation of marine resources and travel by water was often a key aspect of human adaptation.  Coastal lagoons, navigable rivers and sea crossings formed the trade routes of ancient civilizations and over the past five hundred years, sea routes played a central role in trade patterns and the Columbian exchanges that shaped the modern world.  Given the Department of Anthropology’s focus on the period of European expansion, faculty and graduate student research projects in maritime archaeology have focused on sites relating to the emerging Atlantic World.  Examples of project include island communities, such as the East End (St. John, US Virgin Islands); the African settlement of Elmina (Ghana); Bunce Island (Sierra Leone); and the European shipwreck sites (Ghana and Sierra Leone). Our studies also explorations of maritime merchant sites in port towns (Magans and Bankhus, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands) and explorations of the material record of regional and global maritime trade.  Graduate students with a focus on maritime archaeology receive the same, holistic grounding in anthropology as other students in the program, their research focusing on the cultural, social, and economic between communities on land and the maritime environment.  A closely related field to maritime archaeology is underwater archaeology, a subdiscipline of archaeology that deals with study of submerged remains be they of maritime interest or not. Diver certification and SCUBA diving classes can be taken through Syracuse University.  However, the Department of Anthropology does not offer training in underwater archaeology, but rather the understanding of shipwreck sites, harbors, and anchorages and wharf systems as parts of the maritime landscape that humans interacted with.