First deep sea archaeology conference at MIT January 29-31


Press Contact

Denise Brehm
Email: brehm@mit.edu
Phone: 617-253-8069
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Experts in archaeology, oceanography and underwater vehicle engineering will convene at MIT January 29-31 for the first conference ever to deal with deep sea archaeology as a scientific enterprise.

The primary goal of the conferees will be to lay foundations for this newly emerging field through presentation of recent successful deep sea archaeology projects, such as the discovery of ancient Roman shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea in 1997, and discussion of methodology and technology.

This and other notable discoveries (Titanic, Yorktown) have prompted much discussion about ethics&emdash;who should own and manage shipwrecks on the deep ocean floor in international waters&emdash;and raised scientific questions about the exploration and management of archaeological "digs" in deep water.

Presenters and panelists will bring their professional perspectives to bear on discussions of scientific, ethical and legal questions. Participants will include:

  • David Mindell, conference organizer. Mindell is an MIT engineer and historian of technology who helped design Jason, one of the underwater vehicles used to locate and retrieve objects on the ocean floor. He was co-principal investigator on the Mediterranean expedition and principal investigator of ongoing explorations of the Black Sea;
  • Robert Ballard, the oceanographer who led the expeditions that found the Titanic and Yorktown, and founder of the Institute for Exploration;
  • Walter Pitman, geologist at Columbia University and co-author of the forthcoming Noah's Flood (Simon and Schuster, Jan. 1999), which asserts that flood water from the Mediterranean may have filled and significantly expanded the Black Sea about 7,500 years ago;
  • George Bass, noted marine archaeologist at Texas A&M and founder of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology;
  • Patty Jo Watson, an archaeologist at Washington University;
  • John Broadwater of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and manager of the USS Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, who will talk about cultural resource management;
  • James Goold, of the law firm Covington & Burling, who will talk about the legal aspects of deep shipwrecks.

The conference is cosponsored by the Program in Science, Technology and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Institute for Exploration, in Mystic, Conn.

Reporters who are interested in learning more about deep sea archaeology are welcome to attend all or part of this weekend conference. Please contact Denise Brehm of the MIT News Office or Professor David Mindell for more information.


Topics: Earth and atmospheric sciences, Oceanography and ocean engineering, Special events and guest speakers

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