Offshore Industry and Archaeology: A creative relationship
Esbjerg, 14th - 15th March 2013
Links to conference material:
The Blog and News page of the Maritime Archaeology Programme at the University of Southern Denmark.
Offshore Industry and Archaeology: A creative relationship
Esbjerg, 14th - 15th March 2013
Links to conference material:
Undoubtedly one of the great advantages of studying Maritime Archaeology at the SDU is the possibility to develop and gain more experience from little projects alongside the main study programme. With exercising the practical activities, such as diving, measuring, making drawings underwater and dredging, comes the responsibility of planning and managing diving operations, under supervision of our teachers. But the second attempt to find a clinker built shipwreck in Bagenkop was very special for a few of us. This was the first time, when a group of students was asked to hold the task alone.
The group was four students strong and eager to work. The preparation started a few days before leaving to the island of Langeland. After we were given tasks and problems to solve during the trip, we prepared the equipment. Finally the day had come. We hit the road on Wednesday, after class. Three and a half hours drive through the beautiful landscapes of Jylland and Fyn brought us to Bagenkop right after sunset. We were expected in Maritime Efterskole, where our accommodation had been organised. Very hospitable hosts welcomed us with supper. We finished the day with a little walk to the beach and the marina.
We woke up at dawn. The rising sun forecasted nice weather for diving. After breakfast we drove to Rudkobing to pick up a boat and meet Christian Thomsen from Langeland Museum. We came back to Bagenkop, launched the boat and prepared diving equipment. The shipwreck hunt began. The sea was calm and the visibility perfect. First we decided to circulate a bit in the area checking if we could see anything interesting on the bottom. We finally anchored at the place located with the GPS coordinates, that we were given by Christian. The first diver – Dominic, started circular search around sinker poking seabed with a spike. I was sitting in the boat, fully dressed as a standby, when the sun reminded itself, that it was not really present during the summer. I was impatiently waiting to be next in the water. Firstly, because I wanted to be the one who would find the wreck, secondly to cool down. Finally my turn had come. First the crew had moved the sinker to a new place, where I continued the circular search. I found some wood. Unfortunately none of the pieces were worked and the promising long, cylindrical timbers were just branches. At noon we headed back to the harbour, where Christian joined us. The following dives were not prosperous. We moved from place to place hoping for the best. In the afternoon four cylinders with air were emptied and the clinker built shipwreck remained undiscovered.
However good archaeological research is useless if not published. The same way, if maritime archaeology is not popularized there will be no interest in it. That evening we gave a presentation for the students at Maritime Efterskole. Xenius gave a short lecture on maritime archaeology in general. André presented the field school in Germany that took place this summer and I mentioned a few words about the Norwegian one. Christians task was to explain what had brought us to Bagenkop.
The Baltic Sea was very calm the next day. Its’ surface looked like the surface of a lake, and the water was crystal clear. Again we started the day with cruising around hoping that we could spot anything from the surface. We snorkelled probing the seabed with a long pike. Two short dives succeeded with the relocation of the shipwreck found here in August. We sailed back to the harbour, where we met Jens and Bo, who came to Langeland that morning. We discussed what was next, and we decided to focus on the known shipwreck and to stop looking for the mysterious clinker built ship. The aim of the next dives was to gather most information possible e.g. ship orientation, length and width of the site, position, some construction details, how deep under the sediment were the ship, and so on. We dredged, measured, drew for next hours, emptying the last cylinders. We answered all the questions and prepared the site for the first year students who will come to Bagenkop the next summer for their field school.
The project did not only succeed, because we gained new information about the Bagenkop shipwreck, but also because it showed that the way the Maritime Archaeology Programme is designed, prepares students to conduct projects on their own.
Our new master thesis database is now online. We will be adding data to provide a complete overview of master thesis projects at the Maritime Archaeology Programme. Most theses will be available for direct pdf download as well. Check it out here!
To the next eight diving course graduates who successfully finished their course with the final exam today. Well done and keep up the good work! Watch this spot for more pictures and a blog about the course as well…
We had crawled out of the water and out of our dry suits. This time, armed with corers and high tech field survey equipment, we turned our eyes to a land based site. Our mission was to investigate the Iron Age settlement at Henneby in South western Jutland. A settlement situated by a former lake, a potential place for an old landing or trading site. The orders were clear: None-destructive methods only! That meant that the survey teams were bound to use corers to take soil samples in order to identify the extent of the settlement. The squad was divided into three coring teams. A feeling of psychological unrest had entered most team members heads. The reason being one question; How exactly do you recognize a cultural layer?
On a Tuesday in the middle of march, surprised locals of Henneby could see how a mysterious blue van followed by a black Peugeot pulled in to the village. The vehicles parked a few meters from a trench in the road, opposite to the pottery store. Only five minutes later, some ten MAP students had filled up the trench and made themselves busy drawing the profile of the trench that was currently excavated by archaeologists from Varde Museum. On the floor of the trench could be seen post holes of houses and part of a road. As soon as the drawing task was accomplished (of course only seconds later), the coring teams took their positions in the area and initiated the survey. In all directions, gravel roads, ditches, fields and gardens became subject to soil sampling as the coring teams made their way through the landscape. One objective was to find the boundary of the former lake in the southern part of the area. A GPS detail was established to pin point the samples geographically. Little did we know then that these points would make out the first task on the second IT-course assignment a few weeks later. At the end of an (almost) entire day of coring, another surprise soon revealed itself. Cake! The Danish excavation tradition of bringing cake to archaeological excavations was probably news to all foreign students. The work had proved successful! Not only had we found culture in the soil samples, we had also come across a new kind of Danish excavation culture. The coring survey went on for the next day as well.
One week later, after having analyzed the results of the survey, we had reasonably good idea about the settlements extension, but far from all questions had been answered. Where was the southern boundary of the settlement? Was there anything still hiding beneath the soil by the side of the road going in to Henneby? To deal with these questions at the return to Henneby, a new secret weapon was brought along: A restivit…. A resisit…revistity….A super high tech thingy that measures electrical resistance in the ground! With this tool, constructed and designed by our professor Bo (with a little help from a couple of students), we launched into new surveys of the area. 20 x 20m grids were covered around the area where the beach line of the old lake was believed to have been. The readings taken by the machine (manned by 2-4 personnel) made their way from note book paper into excel sheets and computer software. As the data was processed to an image of blurry greyscale areas, we finally started to make out an outline of what appeared to be a fence structure and perhaps a pit house. It should be noted for the record, that in spite of our professors doubt, we maintain that this could be interpreted as the side of a longship. We are, after all, maritime archaeologists. However, this new survey method had completed the task of finding the southern boundary of the Iron Age settlement. It was the method to utilize for the rest of the project. Already the following week, another resistivity meter (ok I can spell it) had been put together, waiting to be used. For the last time, we took the cars to Henneby for more resistivity surveys, some coring and cake. As a continuation of the settlement boundary was searched for by “la resistance”, the obvious nickname for a anybody dealing with resistivity, a metal detector survey was carried out by two of the students. As they worked their way over the fields numerous finds were discovered. Unfortunately, they were all remains of quite recent happy holidays and boy scout-camps (I.e. tent sticks and more tent sticks).
When the last reading had been taken, the last tape measure rolled up and the last piece of cake eaten, we got back in the cars and left Henneby for the last time ever (unless we go back that is). The results of the last day are still being processed. Soon enough they will be published together with the rest of this project. Until then, we wai…. Work!
Two years of dreaming, seven months of master studies, five weeks of commercial diver training, and everything came to fruition dockside in the Schleswig harbour, Germany on Wednesday 16, 2011. The day started out as one of the most beautiful mornings of the year. Driving south with SDU’s archaeological dive team it really felt like spring had finally sprung in Denmark. Little did I know that the day was soon going to turn into one of the major highlights of my academic career―you know library research is thrilling―but to actually be in the field and discover a part of history, now that is something that will resonate with me forever.
Our arrival in Schleswig harbour was met with great enthusiasm. The German television station NDR was on scene with reporters, a traditional film crew, and their special dive team camera crew. Pleasantries where exchange, a short briefing was given and we began to prepare for our first morning dive. Edgar and I suited up, Gustav and Veronique acted as tenders, and Jens served as our dive supervisor. It was approximately 12:00 when I slipped into the 3.5 meters of water surrounding Schleswig harbour, whereby, visibility was comparable to a night dive without a flashlight. The visibility was zero. NDR’s special dive team camera crew were rendered useless and aborted the dive immediately. However, despite the lack of sight―and a little beginner’s luck―I made find, after find, after find, which turned out to all be pieces of medieval ships that had been broken apart due to dredging activities and were suspected to be in the area. I was instantly addicted―must- find- more― and when the air in my tank ran out I eagerly asked if my empty tank could be exchanged for a full one. Jens accommodated my newly found addiction and I was back in the water in minutes attempting to satisfy my new finds fix. Another tank emptied, a large knee found from the ships internal support structure, and we were off to lunch.
After Lunch we relocated further down the dock and it was Veronique and Gustav’s turn to exercise their beginners luck in the blackout conditions of Schleswig harbour. Veronique was quick to produce results and to the surprise of everyone dockside she had found a keel of a clinker built vessel!! The keel still had waterproofing material loosely attached to it where the garboard strake should have abutted the keel, which created even more excitement among the landlocked maritime archaeologists. It was suspected that the garboard strake had only recently become disarticulated from the keel and potentially parts of the vessel were still in situ underwater!! An amazing reality considering that the harbour had just undergone extensive dredging activities. Veronique was directed to return to the spot she had found the keel to see if she should could located anything else, a task easier said than done when there is nothing to orientate one to underwater. Veronique was on it though, and sooner than later we were inspecting a garboard plank on the dock with clinker nails, a scarf joint, and some simple decorative work. The clock struck 17:00 and we had to wrap up our gear and head back to Denmark.
The day’s experience left everyone feeling great about their chosen carrier paths, and it put into perspective all the hard work that brought us to this point. Reflecting back I think the biggest lesson I took away from that day was that there might have been a couple of people who made the actually finds, but it took a group of committed and competent people to get a person into position to be able to make those finds.
Nice work everyone on making the day a total success!!!
Photos by Sila Sokulu