Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton

ARCH2017 Maritime Archaeology

Module Overview

This course aims to give students a sound introduction to the way archaeology is carried out underwater.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

Examine the development of this important new focus of archaeological research, its current priorities and direction, and to show how archaeological principles and techniques are applied in rivers, lakes and seas. Specific themes will be discussed using a series of case studies ranging from submerged prehistoric landscapes and settlements to Classical harbours and shipwrecks. These will be sites in a wide range of geographical locations, including key investigation of the past and those where the fieldwork and research is ongoing.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the archaeological potential of submerged landscapes, structures and other cultural material
  • site types, environmental factors, methodology and current research in this field
  • detailed knowledge of key sites
  • Museum display of maritime material can work
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Describe basic sequences and site types appropriate to Maritime Archaeology
  • Make connections between those sequences and patterns and underlying historical/physical processes
  • Synthesise data from a variety of sources and present it in oral as well as written form
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Understand ideas of pattern and process in the maritime sphere
  • Be able to critique and evaluate information and ideas from a variety of sources
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Understand the different sorts of environments that Maritime Archaeologists work within
  • Observe and interpret archaeological feature relevant to Maritime Archaeology
  • Appreciate the importance of presenting the heritage to the public
  • Understand the interaction between terrestrial and maritime archaeology.


The module begins by looking at the development of underwater research and the sites on which the most significant formative work was carried out. This brings us to current theoretical perspectives and to the way in which archaeological sites in the coastal zone are managed and protected (or not). The way underwater sites are managed and researched concerns methodology. A look at current marine geophysical methods of searching for sites and assessing the seabed will lead to considering how underwater sites are formed and the techniques used for their excavation and recording. This cannot be done without due consideration of the associated problems of recovering and conserving waterlogged material. In the light of these techniques, the archaeological potential of some of the major site types is considered, i.e. ships (wrecks, graves, abandonments), harbours and anchorages and settlements. The module concludes by looking at the current situation in deepwater archaeology where technology has dramatically increased access, and as a result the threat to the archaeological resource.

Special Features

The assessments listed above have been deliberately designed to facilitate both attainment and evaluation of your progression towards the desired learning outcomes. The encyclopaedia entry requires you to concisely define the scope of maritime archaeology, as well as list some key sites. Feedback from this assignment will help you progress your communication skills as well as build the specific knowledge of maritime archaeology required in the examination. The essay assignment builds on the encyclopaedia entry, but allows you to pick from a range of topics, permitting you to satisfy your own research interests. Finally the examination provides an opportunity for consolidation of material learnt both in and out of the classroom. The focused period of revision prior to the examination, along with the four hours of timetabled revision classes, allows you to reflect upon and consolidate what you have learnt, directly contributing to attainment of the principle learning outcomes listed above.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lectures • Classes • Field trip* *‘Participation on this trip/field visit is not a formal requirement of the module, though you are strongly encouraged to attend wherever possible.’ In cases of the latter kind, the Module Outline should include a note to the following effect: Learning activities include • Background reading • Essay preparation Innovative or special features of this module This module brings together expertise in pre-historic and historical archaeology, as well as technology studies, geomorphology, geophysics and oceanography.

Independent Study105
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Hourani, G. F (1995). Arab Seafaring in the Indian Ocean in Ancient and Early Medieval Times. 

Adams, J. (2001). Ships and boats as archaeological source material. World Archaeology. ,33 , pp. 292-310.

Staniforth, M. & Hyde, M. (eds) (2001). Maritime Archaeology in Australia: A Reader. 

Blackman, D.J. (1982). Ancient Harbours in the Mediterranean. Part I & II. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. ,11 , pp. 185-212.

Pulak, C. (1998). The Uluburun shipwreck: an overview. IJNA. ,27 , pp. 188-224.

Casson, L. (1994). Ships and Seafaring in ancient times. 

Rule, M. (1983). The Mary Rose. 

Rupe, C. V. & Barstad, J. F. (2002). International Handbook of Underwater Archaeology. 

Bass, G. F. (ed.) (2005). Beneath the Seven Seas. 

McGrail, S., Blue, L., Kentley, E & Palmer, C. (eds.) (2003). Boats of South Asia. 

Babits L. (1998). Maritime Archaeology. A Reader of substantive and theoretical contributions. 

Greenhill, B. (1995). The Archaeology of Boats and Ships: An Introduction. 

Adams, J. (2002). Maritime Archaeology. Encyclopedia of Historical Archaeology. , pp. 328-330.

McGrail, S. (2002). Boats of the World. 

Muckelroy, K. (1978). Maritime Archaeology. 

Delgado, J. P. 1997 (ed.) (1997). Encyclopaedia of Underwater and Maritime Archaeology. 

Gibbins, D. & Adams, J. (2001). Shipwrecks and maritime archaeology. World Archaeology. ,32 , pp. 279-291.

Dean, M., Ferrari, B., Oxley, I., Redknap, M., Watson, K. (eds) (1992). Archaeology Underwater, The NAS Guide to Principles and Practice. 

Gamble, C. (2001). Archaeology: The Basics. 

Milne, G. (2003). The Port of Medieval London. 

Adams, J. (2003). Ships, Innovation and Social Change. Aspects of carvel Shipbuilding in Northern Europe 1450 – 1850. 

Hornell, J. (1946/1970). Water Transport. Origins and Early Evolution. 

Blue, L. (2003). Maritime Ethnography: The Reality of Analogy. Boats, Ships and Shipyards, Proceedings of the 9th International Symposium of Boat and Ship Archaeology, Venice 2000. , pp. 334-338.

Milne, G. (1985). The Port of Roman London. 

Gould, R. (2000). Archaeology and the Social History of Ships. 

Johnson, M. (1999). Archaeological Theory. An Introduction. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Assessed written tasks  (1250 words) 30%
Essay  (2000 words) 70%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Share this module Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.