Monday, May 7, 2012

Archaeologists Train Guns on Odessey Marine Again

Archaeologists-  this time in the United Kingdom- have once again shot a broadside at Odessey Marine-- this time with regard to its deal with the UK Government to salvage the wreck of the HMS Victory.  See

For an interesting critique of the position of archaeologists with regard to Odessey's work, see

According to the author, Tom King, an archaeologist who was commenting not specifically about the Victory wreck, but rather generally in favor of Odessey's work: 

1. Shipwrecks are deteriorating, both from natural causes and particularly as a result of modern methods of fishing, which plow up the bottom as effectively as agricultural land-levelers have torn up the Mississippi Valley.

2. Academic institutions and museums lack the financial resources to excavate everything that's being destroyed, or even a small percentage of it.

3. There are commercial salvagers who conduct very high quality archaeological excavations, and who have technological and financial resources that the academic community can’t touch (See, for example, the two recent publications by Odyssey Marine Exploration here and here --- which are substantial archaeological survey and site reports, some of which also document my point #1 above).

4. The only difference between such “salvage” and the work of academic underwater archaeologists (other than that, in my experience, Odyssey at least does better work) is that a percentage of the recovered material gets sold after it is described and analyzed.

5. Odyssey at least has rather strict protocols governing what can and can't be sold; what gets sold comprises mostly manufactured items of limited research interest;

6. We archaeologists used to claim that we were interested in the data from sites, not the goodies. The violent and near-mindless standard archaeological reaction to responsible shipwreck salvage proves that we've been dissembling all these years, or simply don't understand our own motivations.

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