thumbnail of Down to the sea; 2; Underwater Archaeology
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
Thanks. That's glamorous and that's exciting when you first enter the water and you run down there 90 feet below and there's Jim Crow era Warner the Mediterranean and you can see the rock laid out their day's work as it. Were laid out. Down. Here from the surface. Right down to the right. Down to the sea. One in a series of programmes about the great world ocean. It covers two thirds of this globe. And about the modern world of the oceanographer and the quest for knowledge that takes him. Down to the sea. This program is subtitled three thousand years under the sea is concerned with one of the most fascinating and most challenging areas of ocean study underwater archaeology
old wrecks on the sea floor have attracted man's attention for centuries but only recently has technology made it possible for him to systematically search and study sunken ships and the search is not for treasure chests of gold but for a much more valuable prize for information about ancient peoples their history trade routes and way of life. But let Bates little Hales photographer for National Geographic magazine set the stage with his description of one Archaeological Project for a century BCE Greek crack and went down off the north coast of Cyprus and from present a seaport voyage called Priory near. And as it was this year actually was the second season we've been working on the rack which was discovered a hole four or five years ago but nowhere could be gone as long as Cypress it was. A political upheaval.
Finally when their difficulties were clear enough the University of Pennsylvania along with National Geographic and National Science Foundation and some private sponsors outfit or rather a lab rat expedition completely scientific expedition and underwater archaeology can be done on a shoestring budget but a work of this magnitude with this promising information available the suspicion that the wood of the hall of vessel that old was going to a state of preservation allowed them to go all out and raise funds and put a proper expedition when I made a proper expedition with the latest equipment not only excavation equipment but safety equipment for the divers that one time
there are as many as 38 divers working each day on this rock. And I went down about ninety to ninety six feet of water. The surface was 90 feet down and the hole was six feet under that. It was wrecked because of the sudden storm that came up off Cyprus and the cargo was extremely have a the merchants this was a small merchant vessel being greedy an overloaded ship and probably I was relatively calm seas and not heavy seas. Most likely in the summer not in the winter when sea does get rough but a sudden storm must come up on the boat went down and she went down rapidly with this heavy cargo so that it was buried in the muck and then through the years the eel grass grew over that until
finally the entire rock except for a pile of amphoras which are these great chars that were made for carrying everything from wind fruit knots or grain just a few of those were trading above the surface sponge diver saw the amphoras mark the spot came up took bearings so it could be found again. Whoa. Let's with. The roar and the fullness thereof. He make it the beep to boil like a pot. He make up the seed like a pot of ointment. One would think the deep to be horror they would go down to the sea in ships to do business in great waters. These see the works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep for he commanded and raise at the stormy wind which lifted up the waves there
are they mount up to the heavens and they go down again to the bet. They reel to and fro the sea and the waves roaring. There was a mighty tempest in the sea saw that the ship was like to be broken. Then. The Mariners were afraid and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea to lighten it. And so as described in the Bible many an ancient merchant ships sink in stormy seas to rest quietly on the bottom until discovered many centuries later often by other seamen plying their trade. Donald M. Rosencrantz an engineering executive with the Pasadena California research and development firm Tetra Tech Incorporated is deeply interested in many fields of Oceanography because of his firm's ocean related research projects. And he is quite an amateur archaeologist too.
We had a fellow named through Peter Throckmorton who in 1958 and 59. I spent the summers cruising with some Turkish miners divers who had been working on the bottom. Picking up sponges and one of the best places for sponges to grow in this area is an ancient shipwrecks. And so for the past 50 years these Turkish bunnies divers have. I. Found a number of shipwrecks and of course know where they are since this is where they are life's blood as far as their economy comes from. We asked on Rosencrantz to summarize some of the developments in modern underwater archaeology. We have used frames in order to set up a logical frame of reference and one that is easy for a diver to find his workstation in. And these were initially used by some Italian workers off the coast of Italy. Cousteau. Did some work on the ground in grand Congo lay which was written up in the National Geographic magazine and is really some of the first work. When it comes to. Underwater archaeology at this period. Diving
technology was rather relevant Terry and indeed many of the problems solved by that team was one of just being able to get divers to the bottom and working successfully and not too much effort was spent on the real mapping of a site which is fundamental to all the old archaeological work and just what we asked photographer abates little Hales is underwater archaeology all about archaeology as main purpose. It is to recover information the value of the cargo or whatever possessions on the intrinsic value of these things is not large. I mean it wasn't a vessel carrying someone's payroll or has tech gold or anything that might get the treasure hunter excited about it. However the end for mannish and the construction of the ship
where they had their cargo. What sort of. Routes they were taking. They could trace some of the cargo down to roads for instance and pretty sure that some of the jars were manufactured in Rhodes. But all of this goes right in with dry land archaeology so that man can essentially just a little bit more about that time which when you come along time ago it was four centuries before Christ was born. It's very unusual to find an Iraq that completely and tacked on that period so it's valuable information. The recovery of the objects the only thing that's difficult about that is to bring them up in the best state of preservation possible. In
other words you don't want your wood deteriorating before you have a chance to examine it in the laboratory and study. So very very much care has to be taken with each object. Not that the object is all that valuable but that the object holds the end for mation. And of course photography is used extensively. Each layer that so uncovered is carefully photographed and a grid work that's laid down over the whole site. These squares are numbered so that they will know when the ship went down to where this car or what part of the ship carried the cargo and other words which you really come down to is that you take extreme care. That you don't remove his piece of information by breaking an object or losing an object or failing to preserve an object.
An amazing variety of information can be obtained through the thorough scientific study of an ancient wreck. The evidence that we came up with through carbon 14 dating of the organic remains on the shipwreck as well as a study of the artifacts and where they have come from. As lead us to believe that this ship sank twelve hundred. BCE or thirty two hundred years ago essentially and they do feel that it was THE NATION. And that it was contemporary with the time of the Trojan War. Now many people and many historians have believed that Homer wrote around wrote about the Trojan War and he wrote about Phoenicians. And because people previously had believed the Phoenicians didn't sail before 900 B.C. they felt that Homer wrote about the Trojan War as a historian and as that and about the Phoenicians as a contemporary. Thus this rack is one scrap of
evidence which makes it possible to perhaps push the life of Homer back three hundred years and thus have him writing about the Trojan War as a contemporary as well. And so this is indeed one. Possible. Conclusion which is rather important from a historical point. It's interesting that there have been many papers written about people in this period of history and how it was absolutely impossible for them to make a set of weights which were integral multiples of each other to within a hundredth of a gram. They felt it was impossible for people because of technology to do this. We found five different sets of weights on the shipwreck which varied well within a hundred to a gram as far as accuracy in their making So people who have deduced this will just have to look at our evidence and indeed agree that people were a lot sharper technologically in this period of history than we have thought in the past. We're also able to deduce trade routes out of.
This particular Phoenician ship because of these five different sets of waves. There are various weight standards used throughout the Mediterranean and one can look up. In past. Archaeological work just where these things were used and so it's rather easy to figure that the ship went from port to port and used all the different sets of weights to perform the other every day trade. So it's really the finding of objects in the context of a whole site that really gives you the most information about ancient history. Down to the sea and their crazy ships when those sailors David New Orlean bearded lean and rough necked hard boiled crew. They had no compass they took no sun they stared by a star again.
They sailed when they couldn't road when they MUST which was rather more than miles and they cursed the skipper and cursed the grub and on every voyage they swore that if ever again they got to port they would say over the sea. But the very next boy the same old crew would be found in the same old tub taking again the same old pence cursing the same old grub out from Tire would they venture to charge. Somehow or other. They made it last the haven where they would be. And back to Tire with gold they came and ivory and spice and murder. And war and their vessel might sing. Well they'd say oh no more in her. Typical based tired at 5 o'clock in the morning.
We were all living in one large house that had been British generals mansion and this town during the British rule. And then allowed to go to rock n roll and to a certain extent. So we refinanced the house and had ours almost 40 of us. We had not only the crew of divers but all of the crew of artists and archaeologist lab technicians set are all living in the same houses so it was a very close knit expedition after breakfast. We would all pile down to a number of boats and go out to a barge that we had more idea than a four point orang right up over the right side and the barge was equipped with compressors both for filling our Aqualung tanks and also
to operate a hook. Some of the divers preferred working on. Where the air was continuously supplied to them as they were acting then they never had any fear running out of the air during some hard lifting of objects raining where they were over breathing. We would go down and teams of four or five people. Starting quite early in the morning. Our bottom time was about 40 minutes that demanded stopping to decompress on the way up we stopped for three minutes twenty feet and Twenty six minutes at ten feet. On our decompression stop we read magazines and pocket books that would last a few days and as you read a page you just tear it off. It's carried away by the current because it won't last.
People actually played chess on the decompression stop to believe the boredom of Twenty six minutes there. Then the next team would go down there while they were still on the stop and their back was primarily excavating extremely care for the haul of the cargo on top of them. And finally we would come down to the water the hall but that took two seasons to complex. So each day was a meticulous uncovering of these objects and allowing them to stay that way until they were photographed in place and then they were carefully brought up after the photographs were made of the placement of the objects on the rock and to do this we used air laughs we had large arrow f small arrow labs and many arrow laughs which are nothing but vacuum
cleaner is really a long tube that would form a vacuum and suck the mock up. This had to be done carefully because you had to make sure that the objects small objects were a diver had as a face right and the arrow of time. A little camel's hair brush. I'm only letting that be carried away. What would help I'm covered. This could be tedious and sometimes boring read or could be extremely exciting when you've found something new and different expected price. Or when you had left these amphoras to do and you had to work out just the right techniques to show it. We started off with a huge basket grade welded together thing that we were going to load with a ham for us and
lift up by balloon. So we loaded all the afros and the air and his way put the air and the whole thing started to tip. So we had to take the air out again immediately. Amphora by AM. They were taken out by hand or ropes where they were dragged up one by one and this this protected them. Then we break for lunch and I won't take a nap and then the diving schedule would repeat itself. Later that afternoon allowing enough time to intervene out of the water that some of the excess nitrogen would build up on us. And. Make Our be compression time and hard on a long in the afternoon. When one thinks about kind of six tramway glamours connected to an archaeological expedition.
We develop a lot of equipment in the States and bring it over with us as well as much of it is actually done in the Turkish blacksmith shop. It must be very simple. To work effectively underwater and indeed most of the problems we have with underwater technology today have been due to overly sophisticated pieces of equipment being built and. When they get at sea they tend to fail due to just unsuspected things that will happen. You never know when you're doing an archaeological excavation just what's important and what isn't. For instance we're working on a Byzantine shipwreck right off the coast of Turkey. And we're the reason we started working on this is that it had a very interesting section which looked like to be a galley area. And we indeed found roof tiles which covered the roof of the galley. And as we dug further down why we even
wound up finding the keel of the ship. And we mapped the tiles where we'd found them we'd mapped everything underneath the position of pots and other tiles and finally when we came to the keel we found that the ship had heeled over when it had sunk to a certain angle. And by using a little bit of simple solid geometry we were projected up from the angle of the keel and projected straight up from where the tiles were indeed we were able to deduce the probable height of the cabin roof. So mapping of the. Finds that you do get topographically does aid you tremendously when you go to interpret the site. You never know what's important till you're finished so you do as careful a job as possible. And I have been. One of the first workers that I know of to apply the techniques of an aerial. Photograph of a tree to the underwater environment. We. Initially did this by simulating a flight line that you might take in air by
putting up a pipe underwater and actually having a diver swim a camera from one position to another and taking a series of overlapping photographs were able to then look at these through the same measurements that one analyzes aerial photographs with. And we were able to come up with some. Three dimensional maps of the bottom. Our first work of course was fraught with the usual problems that you have underwater. Things not working. Working on a low budget and all that. Fact what we did was take an. Underwater camera just we put it on a gimble that we had made in a Turkish blacksmith shop and then when I went down to try and trigger it and keep it reasonably vertical I found that I couldn't because I jiggled it so we found an old jeep and that had been retired due to lack of engine working and took his choke cable and I made myself a cable release so one has to be able to innovate rapidly in the field in order to get things working at all. This is especially true off the coast of Turkey and living on a barren island as we did because logistic support is
nonexistent. I can recall some of our later work with our submarine that we had a part fail and I came all the states for a new and it was sent over and I finally received it through all of the red tape of travel and customs. The day I was leaving Turkey. Fortunately I was able to innovate and do without it. But one does have this sort of problem in 1067. I had a development contract from the Navy which is based on some earlier work that we had done with the stereo technique to come up with a pair of stereo cameras which I then put on the suit submarine the Ashura and were able to. Then fly over a rec area in the submersible and take a series of overlapping chairs and able to generate topographic maps from these photographs and by using a pair of cameras rather than one as we did with the diver we were able to be able to make these maps without ever having to send anybody down to make survey measurements which is normally done on land which
makes these techniques pleasurable. If one builds cameras tough enough to withstand the pressure. The techniques will work to depths of 20000 feet. Thus they will be useful on some of the submarines that the Navy is presently having under development for research Rosencrantz went on to explain what happened to art objects recovered during the course of underwater archaeological work. All countries throughout the Mediterranean have very strong antiquities laws as far as artifacts leaving the country and it's because in the past. Groups from other countries have come in and plundered these fine art objects and brought them back and put them in their own museums and much of the ancient historical wealth of countries such as Greece and Turkey has long since wound up in museums in Western Europe. I don't think one can look at it as vicious plundering because in this period of history the people in the ancient countries hadn't really.
Again full appreciation of the significance of some of these artworks and so many of them wound up in museums and probably were preserved because of that but people in Greece in Turkey today do have a great appreciation for art objects and historical objects and as such we want to preserve what is indeed left in their countries and I think rightfully so. And we asked him just what happens to iron when it's under water for hundreds of years. We have found a number of iron objects on board ship wrecks but they are really in the form of a very concreted mass. And what has happened is that you form up inside of a compounds around the iron and this builds up and gradually over the years the iron goes into solution and disappears leaving a hollow inside the concretion. And what we have done is we've taken these and broken them into manageable chunks and saw them apart on a diamond grid saw. And use them as a mold
and put silicone rubber inside with a framework for stiffening and that actually have been able to cast replicas of what the original Iron object looked like. And by doing this we have cast replicas of well over a hundred Byzantine tools which we found on one ship wreck. And these castings were so good that we're able to see every tooth in a file. So indeed one is able to get quite a good idea of how. Tools were made in ancient times. The future will certainly provide underwater archaeologists with vastly improved technology. Well I certainly see things to make life underwater a lot easier. I think one can accomplish the most work using divers. Certainly if funding allows us we'll be able to develop certain more advanced techniques the possibilities of even using acoustic systems which would automatically give a computer readout of the three dimensional position of every object would be useful.
However it is when you're looking at things with sound you're looking at a sound image which isn't necessarily the same type of image that one sees when look you look at it with reflected light. So indeed. There will be a blending of both photographic and mapping techniques in future. Mapping problems. However as technology develops and these pieces of hardware become everyday items then it will be easier to apply them. The big problem is now that undersea technology is in its infancy in many areas and much of the work as I've said before on the expedition has been in the development of techniques of how to work on their water. It's certainly conceivable that any object ever made by man. Has been transported by the sea. And so given enough time enough. Rex found one can probably do quite a bit. In terms of expanding upon our knowledge of ancient man. The nice thing about underwater archaeology. Is that instead of excavating somebody's garbage dump for
his tomb or as palace. One has a chunk of everyday life which all of a sudden has been. Taken from every day history and put in a relatively safe. Position on the bottom where it has been indeed preserved from the most destructive force on earth. Man himself. Down to the sea is a production of San Diego's public radio station. Abs FM are at San Diego State College. Music while the series was arranged and performed by Sam Hinton and political narrative passages were read by Cliff Kirk. Written and produced by your host Tom McManus with the assistance of Ken Kramer. These programs were made possible in part by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This is the national educational radio network.
Down to the sea
Episode Number
Underwater Archaeology
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-69700x82).
No description available
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 71-1-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:30:00?
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Down to the sea; 2; Underwater Archaeology,” 1971-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 28, 2024,
MLA: “Down to the sea; 2; Underwater Archaeology.” 1971-00-00. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 28, 2024. <>.
APA: Down to the sea; 2; Underwater Archaeology. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from