Wreck-Site Formation Processes

Colin Martin

in The Oxford Handbook of Maritime Archaeology

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780195375176
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Wreck-Site Formation Processes

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The environmental settings within which shipwrecks occur are matters of chance rather than of choice. It is primarily the wreck and not its physical context that is of consequence to nautical archaeologists. No two wreck-site formations are the same, since the complex and interacting variables that constitute the environmental setting, the nature of the ship, and the circumstances of its loss combine to create a set of attributes unique to each site. The dynamic phase, which begins with the event of shipwreck, is characterized by the wreck's status as an environmental anomaly. It is unstable, lacks integration with its surroundings, and is prone to further disintegration and dispersal by external influences. The chemical and physical properties of water cause reactions with the metals. Understanding these natural processes in the context of the distinctively anthropogenic inputs, this article characterizes archaeology as an essential prerequisite to the interpretation of any shipwreck.

Keywords: shipwrecks; wreck-site formations; nautical archaeologists; wreck-site formations; environmental anomaly; anthropogenic inputs

Article.  7997 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Archaeology of the Near East

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