An archaeological excavation of a shipwreck site recovers more than gold and silver treasure.
Marine archaeology is the study of human history through the artifacts and structural remains left behind. Due to their remote locations, deep-ocean shipwrecks are often time capsules of a forgotten past. The artifacts and their contexts provide crucial information about a ship, her passengers and crew, and life during the period.
With the discovery and exploration of shipwrecks comes an obligation to share knowledge and treasures with the public -and we are passionate about doing so. Through television programs, exhibitions, educational school curriculum, magazine articles, popular and scientific books and the internet, we make shipwrecks in the deep ocean accessible to all.
By merging a commercial model with high-level archaeological methods in the deep ocean, a company called Odyssey Marine Exploration revolutionized opportunities to access and understand the sunken past. The scientists behind this work have boldly gone where no explorers have gone before.
This approach to commercial archaeology is the opposite of the marine salvage industry, where the main goal is recovering commercially valuable items mostly from modern steel wrecks, typically without any legal obligation to record objects of cultural and historic value. Commercial archaeology is also not "treasure hunting" where the goal is often only to recover gold and silver without regard for the rest of the artifacts, hull and contexts that are so historically revealing. To us the relationships where objects were found (called ‘context’ in archaeology) – parrot bones near a cat’s jaw, for instance, on the 1622 "Tortugas" shipwreck – are just as important as gold or silver coins.
Using this hybrid approach, Odyssey has discovered hundreds of shipwrecks in the deep ocean including 5th-century BC Punic merchant vessels near the Straits of Gibraltar, Roman and Ottoman traders in the Eastern Mediterranean, Colonial French pirate ships, Civil War era steamships, powerful English warships and German U-boats on secret patrols beneath the English Channel and its Western Approaches.