Almost everything and anything made by the hand of man once travelled by sea. Underwater expect the unexpected.
Shipwreck finds tend to be both far more intact than on land, made from a rich variety of organic and inorganic materials from ceramics (intact pots, not sherds) and glass to leather, wood (including the hulls themselves), gold and silver. Sunken artifacts saturated with corrosive salts can crack and be destroyed without treatment. Saltwater environments especially accelerate the corrosion of most metals, especially iron and copper compounds.
Every item recovered from a shipwreck site must go through a conservation process, which in some cases may require weeks, months or even years depending on the artifact’s material make-up, the salinity of the water from where it was recovered and the length of time it remained in the saltwater environment.
First-aid conservation starts as soon as an artifact lands on the research ship. On deck finds are documented, photographed, catalogued and processed to halt corrosion. Salts must be washed out of all objects and metals and wood stabilized. Our shipwreck finds are conserved to the highest standards in our dedicated lab and in cases – for some iron cannon, bronze bells, leather goods needing freeze-drying and paper letters – are outsourced for optimum treatment.
The conserved artifacts are analyzed, researched and documented by archaeologists and researchers and by other scholars with relevant expertise. On-going artifact condition reports and photography are essential to the conservation program and further support our stringent archaeological standards.