What is Underwater Heritage about?

The first response to me saying “I’m an underwater archaeologists” is usually: “Wow, that’s such a cool job!” Being socially inept, this statement is usually followed by an awkward silence while I struggle to think of something to say to keep the conversation going. I know it’s my turn to talk, but my conversational skills don’t really extend beyond “Hello”. Fortunately, most people aren’t burdened with this affliction and whoever I’m speaking to usually tries to save the day. Unfortunately, the next question is usually along the lines of “so what is it that underwater archaeologists actually do? It’s about rocks and stuff isn’t it?”

Well, no, it isn’t about rocks and stuff, but it’s an unusual enough profession for most people to not know too much about it. So, I have realised, it’s probably a good idea to try to change that and so this blog will try to explain what it is that we do and will keep those of you interested in what we do, updated with projects and other cool activities that fill up our days. It’s even more exciting than you think and it’ll surprise you to learn how extensively our lives are influenced by things that have happened in the past. If you’re thinking “yeah, right…” you need to keep coming back and check out the stories and histories. There’ll be pictures, videos and a ton of other things to keep you amused. You’ll also get the chance to comment, question or make my life miserable if you so choose.

To start off, a little bit about me:

I really am an underwater archaeologist. As professionals we’re also known as maritime archaeologists, nautical archaeologists, aquatic archaeologists and a bunch of other things, some of which are less flattering, but we all do pretty much the same thing with slightly different specialisations. In short, we do exactly what archaeologists do on land, but on much cooler sites. We work underwater, we find historical treasures, we even come across gold and silver from time to time. Like all good adventurers we have our nemeses who, in our case, are the treasure hunters who loot and pillage underwater heritage sites. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, check back for those stories.

Back to what I do. I am specifically involved in managing underwater archaeological sites and sites associated with people’s interaction with water. This gets done through the South African Heritage Resources Agency, a governmental organisation which manages heritage in general.  Although it sounds like a job where you’d just get to move papers around a desk, I do get to dive on sites (some of which no one else gets to go to), get involved in all sorts of projects and programmes (some of which you can get involved in too if you stay alert), travel to out of the way places and meet interesting people, all of which you’ll get to read about if you stick around.

This site will do its best to tell you all about the cool stuff, the government stuff and the academic stuff that goes with underwater archaeology and Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage, so stick around…

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