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College of Arts & Sciences
Maritime Research Division

2017 Society of Historical Archaeology Annual Meeting

What is going on in the world of Underwater Archaeology this year.

This year the 50th Annual Society for Historical Archaeology meeting was held in Fort Worth, Texas from January 4th - 8th.  While everyone expected it to be cold, no one thought it would snow! Which it did for most of the conference. 

The conference was well attended this year, nearly 1,000 historical and maritime archaeologists were in attendance.  Thirty percent of the papers presented addressed underwater archaeological sites and topics. Many of these papers addressed new technologies being used to document underwater archaeological sites. These new technologies are incredibly interesting and will change the way we do archaeology in many places. For the time being however they rely on good dive conditions and visibility which we do not often get in South Carolina.

The most talked about session was a panel in which professional maritime archaeologists discussed issues that face women in the field of maritime archaeology and the experiences that they have. This comes after a sister conference has been dealing with issues related to sexual harassment and new policies have been put in place by professional governing boards.   This panel has led to the adoption of a new mentoring programing which pairs people new to the field of archaeology with more experienced people.

SCIAA and the MRD were represented by Jessica Irwin.  Jessica presented a paper on the logistics of raising the CSS Pee Dee Cannons. Jessica also became a member of the UNESCO Committee. This committee’s goal is to help further the mission of the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage. This convention aims at protecting important underwater archaeological sites that have global significance.  This was especially important in light of the recent disappearance of World War II shipwrecks in the South Pacific.

Jim Spirek teleconferenced in to the Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology (ACUA), of which he sits on the board. The ACUA serves as an international advisory body on issues relating to underwater archaeology, conservation, and submerged cultural resources management.  It is working to educate scholars, governments, sport divers, and the general public about underwater archaeology and the preservation of underwater resources. If you would like to know more about the ACUA or see photos from the annual photography contest please click here. Jessica’s research on the archaeology of slave ships is in the 2016 edition of the ACUA proceedings here or available via  


The Society of Historical Archaeology provides fantastic resources for artifact identification. Please visit the website for more information.