Shipwrecks are unique archeological resources
Archeology is the scientific study of human culture through investigation and interpretation of artifacts and other cultural remains.
Underwater archeology simply defines a specialized environment in which archaeological research may be carried out, and may include the study of inundated terrestrial sites, dock works, and even shipwrecks.
Shipwrecks are unique archaeological time capsules, allowing archeologists and historians many insights into past human culture, history, and technology.
The cold fresh water of the Great Lakes offer unparalleled site preservation, often preserving entire ships and their contents intact.
Shipwrecks also act as artificial reefs for fish populations, and have even served as underwater laboratories for scientists to study dateable rates of biological growth and metal corrosion.
The study of the ship as an artifact has given rise to a new archaeological sub discipline; nautical archeology.
Through the study of shipwrecks, cargoes, armaments, equipment, and personal possessions of the crews, archeologists are beginning to understand the important role of maritime commerce, exploration, and marine technology in shaping world history and human culture.
The socio-economic development of the influenced by its maritime history.
Nautical archeology offers insight into that heritage.
While nautical or underwater archeology is quite new in Wisconsin (the first archaeological study of a Wisconsin shipwreck did not take place until 1984), Wisconsin archeology is quite well established.
The first issue of Wisconsin Archeologist was published in 1902 , and is one of the country’s oldest archaeological journals.
While virtually all of this early archeology was concerned with the study of pre-historic sites, much of today's studies are of historical-period sites, including historic European American sites.
Quite a bit of Wisconsin archeology is going on around you, though many might not realize it.
For example archeology is being done at highway construction and other public projects.
Virtually all the universities in the state(and some of the college) offer basic classes in archeology and anthropology, some offer summer field schools, and two offer graduate degrees.
Local archaeological societies hold monthly meetings, featuring speakers on a variety of local, national, and international topics in archeology.
The WUAA hopes to facilitate information sharing among its members, and serve as a focus for training, education, and research.
As a member, you may also wish to familiarize yourself with other archaeological opportunities in your community.
Archeological Society for meetings, speakers, trips and other activities in your area.
Archeology is much more than just shipwrecks, and there are numerous opportunities to become involved with Wisconsin's long-standing interest in its past. Check your local library for books and journals on archeology, your local college or university for classes, and your local chapter of our dry-land counterparts, the Wisconsin Contact State Archeologist Robert Birmingham (608/262-0991) or Underwater Archeologist David Cooper (608/262-0160)for more information on archeology programs in your area.
This article is from our April 1991 Newsletter. To see more like this, become a member and have full access to the newsletter archives.