Underwater archaeology

Contract museum archaeology in Sweden

Hello and greetings from Sweden’s west coast! My name is Delia Ní Chíobháin Enqvist and I am an archaeologist working in the Contract Archaeology department at Bohusläns museum, Uddevalla.

Bohusläns museum_Ytterby AU

#FieldworkFace. Photo: Niklas Ytterberg, Bohusläns museum.


At the contract archaeology department we work mostly with projects that are development-led and mainly within Västra Götaland county, but at times travel to other parts of the country. I could explain in detail the bureaucratic process behind project contracts and the laws involved but this post is supposed to be fun to read! Basically, if someone is developing an area of land or water the County Administrative Board decides on whether there is a need for archaeological work, they then decide on a company carry out the archaeological work (there are a number of competitive companies in Sweden), and in general it is the contractor who pays for the work. That was the nutshell explanation, here is a more detailed explanation.

In total we are 20 archaeologists at the department, including maritime archaeologists. We have a blog and we tweet, the majority of the content is in Swedish so don’t worry about trying to pronounce any of the words, it took me a few years. I am Irish and am originally from the Dingle peninsula. Right after beginning my studies in archaeology I took up scuba diving with the plan of becoming a maritime archaeologist. And my plan worked! Today I am one of four maritime archaeologists at the department and we work on archaeological projects along the coast, in rivers and in lakes all over Sweden. We dive according to the Swedish Work Environment Authority’s regulations but in essence the archaeological work we conduct is similar to that on land. Save for occasionally not being able to see things. Below is an image showing good visibility underwater:

An archaeologist working on a wreck site off Resö island, Sweden. Photo: Delia Ni Chiobhain Enqvist, Bohusläns museum.

An archaeologist working on a wreck site off Resö island, Sweden. Photo: Delia Ni Chiobhain Enqvist, Bohusläns museum.

Here is an image of from an area with less visibility:

Delia on an archaeological investigation at Lindholmen, lake Vänern, Sweden. Photo: Staffan von Arbin, Bohusläns museum.

Delia on an archaeological investigation at Lindholmen, lake Vänern, Sweden. Photo: Staffan von Arbin, Bohusläns museum.

While all of the archaeologists at the department partake in fieldwork, we also work as project managers for the department’s archaeological investigations and excavations. This involves taking projects from the initial enquiry, researching the archaeology of the area, posing research questions, developing a project and fieldwork plan, creating a budget, arranging logistics, participating in the fieldwork, documentation and analysis and finally report writing. The majority of this work is desk based and likely not the first image of an archaeologist that comes to mind, but it is what I find both interesting and important about our work. No day is really ever the same and we work closely with developers on a professional level to ensure that archaeological interests are considered during developments.

Ongoing excavations at Gothenburg's Old Town. Photo: Markus Andersson.

Ongoing excavations at Gothenburg’s Old Town, Staden Nya Lödöse. Photo: Markus Andersson.

On this Day of Archaeology I happen to be in the office. In July many companies and industries take holiday so there are not many archaeologists in the office right now. As the Swedish summer typically happens on one day, which was in late June, it is quite ok to be indoors. My colleague Clara and I are spending our time writing reports from previous excavations in the field. Clara is writing a report on an excavation of a settlement site not far from Gothenburg and that dates from the Stone Age to the Vendel Period, here’s the initial investigation report. I am working on a report from a maritime archaeology investigation that we carried out in May prior to development of a lake shore near Alingsås. Reporting our investigations and excavations is not only a requirement from the County Administrative Board but is also our duty as archaeologists, otherwise by keeping the information to ourselves we do not fulfil one of our main goals which is to present the past to society. Our department’s reports can be found here (shameless plugging).

Many of us have a number of projects of varying sizes ongoing at any time. Apart from writing a report I am also making maps for a report of an excavation of a late Iron Age burial ground on Tjörn island. Clara, an osteologist, spent last week analysing bone finds from various parts of Sweden. Some archaeologists in the unit are currently working on the largest urban excavation to ever have been carried out in western Sweden, the city of Nya Lödöse and where I have borrowed a number of images from:

NyaLodose_150521_Markus Andersson

Ongoing excavations at Gothenburg’s Old Town, Staden Nya Lödöse. Photo: Markus Andersson.

As a final note, Clara and I will soon embark on an exciting new path as PhD students, exciting not just for us but for contract archaeology as a whole. While still working as contract archaeologists we will study as part of the Graduate School of Contract Archaeology at Linnaeus University. Our department has embarked on this unique cooperation between contract museum archaeology and academia to investigate and develop archaeology’s contemporary societal relevance. We plan to study and develop methods which will further engage the public with their past, and by the time Day of Archaeology 2016 arrives we will have much more to write on the subject.

Delia and Clara taking time for a selfie during fieldwork at Jörlanda Berg.

Delia and Clara taking time for a selfie during fieldwork at Jörlanda Berg.


Until then thanks for taking the time to read about our work!


Julien Dez, hyperbaric logistician at Inrap

Julien Dez is a hyperbaric* logistician at Inrap.

Since 2011, Inrap has had an underwater activities service, specifically dedicated to the implementation of underwater operations, whether at sea or in rivers. The preparation and implementation of underwater preventive archaeology operations require advanced technical skills, specific diving training, but also a good knowledge of professional diving safety rules, especially enhanced in hyperbaric environments.


As a land archaeologist first and having been practicing underwater archaeology for many years, I joined the underwater activities service at Inrap in 2012 to specifically take care of logistical issues in hyperbaric environments.

My role is pivotal in the way that I am involved in all the technical elements that an underwater archaeological operation requires : identifying the needs of each operation, both from a human and technical point of view, accordingly preparing the technical equipment for each member of the team and conveying the transport truck onto the site of the operation, which can be all over the French territory. The context of these interventions (ocean, river, lake …) determines the type and number of boats needed for the operation. Searching for suitable water transportation resources is also part of my job.

After launching an operation, I join the teams on the field to effectively participate in the archaeological excavation: diving reconnaissances, excavations, surveys, sample gatherings…

At the end of the operation, all the equipment used is thoroughly cleaned, checked, revised if necessary and then stored at the operational base in anticipation of the next intervention.

My working time is thus divided between my office, the operational base that stores the diving and technical equipment and finally the field, drawing a rather unusual but exciting job profile.


Julien DEZ


*hyperbaric: pertaining to or utilizing gaseous pressure greater than normal.

Philip Robertson (Historic Scotland) – Argyll and Bute

Philip Robertson, Historic Scotland

Philip Robertson, Historic Scotland

Argyll and Bute ‘Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011’

Argyll and Bute ‘Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011’

I’m Philip Robertson. I work in the Scheduling, Marine and Battlefields team within Historic Scotland, and am responsible for operational management of the Scheduling programme, and leadership of Historic Scotland’s work in protecting and managing marine archaeological heritage, in particular through designation of Historic Marine Protected Areas.

As befits the interests of a maritime archaeologist, I have chosen a shipwreck!  The wreck of what we believe was a small oared warship belonging to the Marquis of Argyll, the Swan, was lost at the S entrance to the Sound of Mull during an attack on Duart Castle by Cromwellian forces in September 1653.

The Swan was discovered by a Royal Navy diver around 1979, who brought it to the attention of the University of St Andrews. The site is a particular favourite of mine as I took part in the investigations of the wreck which took place between 1991 and 2003, led by Dr Colin Martin.   The excavations revealed the well-preserved structure of a wooden vessel, including the collapsed stern, comprising the bottom part of the rudder, sternpost and associated components detached from the keel; the lower hull, comprising frames, inner and outer planking, and mast-step; and the less well-preserved remains of the collapsed bow.

The team also discovered a wide range of artefacts, including carved decorative features from the ship, rigging, small arms and one small cannon with carriage, silver coinage, ceramics, navigational equipment, galley remains, personal effects, the bones of one human being, as well as plant, animal and fish remains.

Wooden carved cherub in situ at the wreck off Duart Point, by the Archaeological Diving Unit (ADU) Copyright RCAHMS (SC1127028)

Wooden carved cherub in situ at the wreck off Duart Point, by the Archaeological Diving Unit (ADU) Copyright RCAHMS (SC1127028)

Today, divers are welcome to visit this site and see guns and anchors on the seabed, but the remaining sections of the hull are protected under sandbags and sediment that are helping to stabilise the environment around the wreck.  As the site is legally protected, visitors must not disturb the wreck or remove artefacts without permission. Educational tours are organised through the nearby Lochaline Dive Centre, but if you’re not a diver, you can still enjoy a visit to Duart Castle where you will find an exhibition about the wreck. There is also an interpretation panel on the promontory next to the site.

What interests me most about the Swan is that it shows that Scotland’s underwater heritage can be just as rich and significant as our heritage on land. With the aid of scuba equipment and the traditional skills of the archaeologist, underwater archaeology can contribute just as much to our knowledge of the past as the very best archaeological investigations on land.

The online record for the Swan held at RCAHMS, was recently upgraded as part of a partnership between RCAHMS and Historic Scotland, aimed to enhance and promote information on the marine historic environment. More information about Project Adair can be found on the RCAHMS website including the full project reports.

General Plan of the Duart Point wreck site at the close of the 2003 excavations, By Drs Colin and Paula Martin. © RCAHMS

General Plan of the Duart Point wreck site at the close of the 2003 excavations, By Drs Colin and Paula Martin. Copyright RCAHMS (DP151172)

This is what I’ve chosen for Day of Archaeology, but why not tell us your favourite archaeological sites in Scotland on Twitter using #MyArchaeology.


Archaeology is Anthropology

As a college student, the question of my major and future career ambition is one of those frequently asked questions that I contend with on a daily basis. Very few seemingly understand what it means to study cultural anthropology- that isn’t necessarily a value judgement, merely an assessment of my personal experiences. The FAQ takes various forms, but amounts to something like “What are you going to do with that?” or “Oh, so you’re going to be a teacher.”

One of the many docks that is part of the inventory of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

I must admit that I often ask myself the same question(s), which prompted me to participate in an internship rather than a field school this summer as part of my undergraduate degree requirements. I knew that I had to find something that interested me both as an anthropologist and as a historian.

I ended up working on a project that satisfies both of those requirements. So far this summer, I have participated in a NAS fieldschool that was held in Traverse City, Michigan and helped other underwater archaeology students with their individual projects. I have attended various organizational events as a representative of my site supervisor/mentor. But for me, one of the coolest things about this internship is my participation in a complete inventory of the historic docks and piers of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Last summer at this time, I was spending the day conducting research on a shipwreck that washed ashore in the same area in late 2010. This summer, I spent the day (once again) doing research. And while the area of historic research is not really in my scope of interest, the information that I found on one of the historic sites is rather fascinating (which for me was rather unexpected). The dock that I am researching is called Aral Dock and is one of many century old docks in the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore that has all but disintegrated into just pilings. The dock itself was rather homogeneous for the area in both build and use. Cargo such as lumber and agricultural items was loaded and unloaded at the dock and was sent on its way to various ports around the Great Lakes. Aral Dock is not interesting (for me) because of it’s construction, or materials, or rate of decay; Aral dock is interesting because of the scandal that surrounds it.

Research through local and regional newspapers as well as oral history from residents shows that there was a double homicide on this particular dock, earning it the nickname “Murder Dock”. The reason was money related- taxes, specifically- and the murder touched the small agricultural port town in a way that was unexpected for that community.  As a student of anthropology and history, this salacious history of an area that is currently considered to be quiet and relaxing for residents and tourists alike is an interesting study in local anthropology.

The area itself was a combination of industrial and agricultural, with the docks acting as a material reminder of how these people once lived and worked. What remains of the historic docks in the area is submerged in varying depths of water, ranging from shoreline depths to fifteen feet. Position fixing has been a chore, especially because of the wave action that is common in this specific bay on Lake Michigan. That is not to say that this experience hasn’t been enlightening or enjoyable. I can now say with confidence that I know what it is that I can do with my degree in Anthropology: I want to take what I have learned and apply it the field of historic archaeology, specifically sites that are underwater. Yes, I will likely spend more time in a library, museum, or historical society than I will in the field. I will likely be spending large amounts of time sifting through innumerable amounts of historic photos and oral histories as I did on the Day of Archaeology. But I have come to realize that there is no better way for me to combine my interests in history and human culture than by studying the physical material remains of the people that once occupied the most beautiful place in America.

Plus, my office will have one heck of a view. So, there’s that, too.


Day of Archaeology in Macedonia 3

We already sent our documentary and our letter of participation. Our third post is about underwater archaeology and making documentaries for archaeological sites.

Some of our colleagues are doing underwater archaeology, so in the following video you can see their working day, little bit different of  ours working days on the field 🙂

NGO Archaeologica together with MA Goran Sanev and Michail Stojanovski, archaeologists from Museum of Macedonia made film about the archaeological site Golemo Gradiste – Konjuh in Macedonia. Every year this site is researched by international team of archaeologists from Museum of Macedonia and Ms. Carolyn S. Snively from Gettysburg College, USA and hers students. The film is in post production and it will be presented in about few months.

This is how we celebrated The Day of Archaeology 2012. See you next year with more informations and new archaeological findings. Congratulations about the Day of Archaeology.

NGO Archaeologica – Skopje, Republic of Macedonia


My Day of Archaeology, is, as it was last year, meta.  I am one of the founders of the Day of Archaeology project, and I have spent my day (mostly) online, editing and posting articles and Tweeting about the project.  This is pretty much as good as my Day of Archaeology is going to get.  The loosest relationship my day had to field archaeology was when I went to see my back specialist this morning about a back injury I exacerbated last year when I was digging in Poland –  I went a bit mental with the de-turfing and hurt my back so badly I had to return to the UK and missed out on working on the most amazing 14th C. Baltic site.

A pal on Twitter said to me yesterday that I was mud-avoidant.  I will be the first to admit that what  I do for my PhD isn’t exactly archaeology.  I am a PhD student at the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, and my research is ‘Public Archaeology in a Digital Age’.  So I’m looking at how, where and why archaeology and the public meet online and how archaeology as a sector creates, sustains and uses online community.  There are a few things that keep me awake at night about my research, mainly because it’s just so damn fascinating.  At the moment, I am researching the concept of archaeological authority and knowledge-ownership –  I think that  changes to the landscape of communication in archaeology are simply a technologically-facilitated continuation of longer-term developments within the sector as a whole (get me).  But  how far has the growth of participatory media impacted the archaeological sector in the UK?  How have these media facilitated collaboration between professional and layperson? Has the encouragement of audience participation gone any way towards supporting any real acknowledgement of multi-vocal approaches to heritage issues? What evidence exists that social media dialogue is about sharing archaeological authority at all, in an online context?  Which part these ‘non-professional’ digital voices will be considered inauthentic, and why?  So many questions…

I do a lot of research through surveys, and talking to people, but a lot of my work is also observation.  How people interact, what is said, how it is said, where it’s said.. so today has been interesting!  I absolutely love my PhD topic and feel hugely privileged to be funded to undertake it.  I get to read lots of sociology, which is my new Best Thing, and I have learned so much by being part of the Centre for Digital Humanities, and the interdisciplinarity there.   It has been the most interesting 2 years of my life ever (and I’ve had some interesting years, believe me)..  I just hope someone will employ me at the end of all this, the big worry for every PhD student.

I have recently moved back home to East Anglia, mainly because it’s cheap, but mostly for some peace and quiet.  The flat, open landscape here created the archaeologist inside me (she really ought to get out more, poor girl).  The wealth of wool churches, the Norman castles, the shadows of Norse in the dialect, and the Scandinavian street names led me to study medieval archaeology 21 years ago, and although I am all about archaeology and communication, AD 400 – 900 is my secret passion.  But if anyone asks, I’m strictly social media & comms, right?  Right?

For us Public Archaeologists, understanding how we meet, discuss and inform the public and understanding the technologies we can use to do this is, I think, vital.  I just hope that my research outcomes will play a small part in having an impact on how archaeology exploits Internet technologies.  Part of this understanding is the development of the Day of Archaeology itself.  I am overwhelmed by the support we have been offered by archaeologists worldwide, for free, for the love of archaeology, because we believe it matters, not just for ourselves but everyone. That we have managed all this through the power of the Internet is witness to the increasing importance of Public Archaeology at a time when archaeology is being given the death of a thousand cuts.  Without public support, we will wither.

Better get writing then, eh?

Day of Archaeology in Macedonia

Archaeologists in Macedonia, under the leadership of NGO Archaeologica, have joined together to celebrate this day by making a documentary film, photo exhibition and public presentations that you can follow the Web site of Archaeologica (www.archaeologica.org.mk), and the web site of the Day of Archaeology 2012.

We filmed one documentary about one day in archaeology and how is it spend in museums or on the sites. Some of our archaeologists are doing underwater archaeology and you can see the second short movie about their job and their ordinary day on the field. The third short movie is about making of our documentary about the site Golemo Gradiste – Konjuh, Macedonia. These days Archaeologica was filming this site for making a documentary for following season 2013 and representing the movie on the forthcoming archaeological film festivals.   Enjoy watching the videos.

A day with Macedonian Archaeology

Day of Archaeology as a Masters student

I am a Masters student studying Archaeology and I have spent today writing parts of my dissertation as well as adding some new posts to my group I recently created on facebook called ‘Archaeology Lancaster’ where I post information about events in Lancaster and other archaeology related news.

My dissertation is on the Roman site of Vindolanda and I still have until September to finish it but I still have a way to go yet! I have done several modules this year as part of my MA- Neolithic Britain, ritual and religions, research module and archaeology of gender which were all really interesting.

I have also been busy with other bits recently – I took my CSCS test and got IFA membership. I have also been volunteering at the local museum and went on a conservation course with them and I am doing a scuba diving course on underwater archaeology soon.

I always wanted to be an archaeologist from as far back as I can remember but I don’t know where this interest came from. I decided to study Ancient History and Egyptology as my degree and then I went on my first excavation in Swansea. After this I looked for more to volunteer on and found one at Vindolanda and then most recently ones as part of the festival of archaeology. I also love being in Museums and collecting books on archaeology.

As part of the festival of archaeology this week I have been to several talks run by Oxford archaeology North in Lancaster – one called ‘what the Romans did for us’ and the other ‘community archaeology’ and I went to a surveying day using a total station in the park. I also went on an excavation at the Senhouse Museum in Maryport and one at Swarthmoor Hall in Ulverston as part of the festival.

At some point in the near future I hope to get a job in archaeology or a related discipline.