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Hankolainen hylky palapeli pitkin meren pohjaa
A wreck puzzle from Hanko scattered on the seabed. Photo by: Eveliina Salo, The National Board of Antiquities

Underwater archaeological research

Archaeological research taking place underwater includes surveys of the sites of discovery, underwater inventorying, and research carried out at the sites, including the processing and interpretation of the material collected in the field.

Inspections of underwater discoveries are carried out at new sites reported to the National Board of Antiquities by amateur divers, museums, and other persons and communities interested in history. The purpose of underwater inventorying is to map all of the underwater discoveries beforehand in a given water area. In most cases, the inventorying is carried out due to a water engineering project: there is a desire to ensure that no uninspected underwater relics are destroyed during construction.

The Archaeological Field Services unit of the National Board of Antiquities carries out the inspections of the discoveries as an official duty. The National Board of Antiquities also grants research permits to diving clubs and museums, among others. The results of the field activity are gathered and added to the archive of the National Board of Antiquities, which is available to any interested parties. Field reports can also be found in the Project Register for Ancient Relics.

The object of research in underwater archaeological field work is usually the hull of a shipwreck and the artefacts it contains. The object is systematically documented with measurements and photographs. The work is carried out by diving and with different probing methods. If the relic is from the historical period, its dating and origin can also be investigated by means of archival research. An archaeologist often utilises other scientific fields. For example, the environmental conditions of an object can be investigated with the help of biologists and geologists.

The goal of an archaeologist is to map, interpret and understand the entire discovery, not pick out individual objects. A research report is written after the field work, and any artefacts raised from the object are conserved. Artefacts raised from the water are easily destroyed without conservation.

Mäntyharju Muurahaisniemi
A test hole is being dug in the waters of a beach of the Stone Age dwelling in Muurahaisniemi, Mäntyharju. Photo by: Mari Salminen, The National Board of Antiquities

Manual for Activities directed at Underwater Cultural Heritage


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Last updated 29.10.2015
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