The Malta Field School in Underwater Archaeology - Mellieha Bay 2014"

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1 The Malta Field School in Underwater Archaeology - Mellieha Bay 2014" Report " by" T. Gambin " " " " " " " " August 2014"

2 Introduction... 3 The Location... 3 Past work in the area... 3 Project Dates... 4 Research questions... 4 Methods & Results... 5 Conservation... 6 Documentation... 6 Project management... 7 Training... 7 List of participants:... 8 Participants covered the following basic facets and skills:... 9 Participants attended the following lectures (Figures 7 & 8): Participants attended the following site visits: Outreach Publicity Future Work Appendix A - map of Haddow s Valley produced by students in

3 Introduction This report covers the Field School organised by the Department of Classics and Archaeology at the University of Malta in June 2014 and supported by the Honor Frost Foundation. The Location Detailed descriptions of the location and the natural environment in Mellieha Bay, Malta are available in the 2013 report archived here: honorfrostfoundation.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/gambin- HFF_report_uom_2013.pdf Past work in the area 1967, Honor Frost carried out a preliminary investigation of the site that was indicated to her by third parties. In a brief (two weeks) but productive project she managed to map, survey and execute a collection of objects that were laying on the surface. From the objects retrieved it is apparent that the site consists of a Roman shipwreck datable to the 3rd century AD with a mixed cargo of amphorae, mortars and glass frit. Of importance is her conclusion that the remainder (and majority) of the site is situated in areas close to where she worked under mattes of posidonia oceanica and/or buried within the sediments. Between 2010 and 2012, a series of remote sensing surveys were carried out as part of the University s attempt to gather information about this site. Three technologies were used in the course of these surveys: a) side scan sonar; b) magnetometer and c) sub bottom profiler. In a nutshell, the main results from these three surveys point to a number of anomalies and targets in the area studied by Frost. At this stage it is not possible to determine whether the said targets and anomalies are archaeological objects (Figure 3).In 2012, a broad diver survey of the Mellieha site was completed by a team from the University of Malta. The main purpose of this survey was to re-locate the site and to map and survey Haddow s valley to establish whether it has undergone any major changes. It transpired that the valley is more or less intact and that cultural material is still present in the area of study. In 2013, as part of the first field school supported by the Honor Frost Foundation three weeks of diving operations were conducted. Loose objects (Figure 1) were mapped and lifted from the seabed and a number of test trenches were excavated within Haddow s Valley. The latter proved to be devoid of any archaeological material. 3

4 Figure 1. Ceramic material on seabed in Project Dates The 2014 Field School ran from Monday 9th June to Friday 27th (both days inclusive). Due to the intensity of marine tra#c experienced in 2013 it was decided not to carry out diving operations on Saturdays, which were in turn dedicated to lectures/seminars in the morning and site visits in the afternoon. Sundays were o$ and participants were encouraged to tour local heritage sites." Research questions Given that the field school was organised on a real archaeological site it was pertinent to have a number of research questions that we planned to investigate throughout the three weeks of fieldwork. These were: to establish the extent to which the Mellieha Bay site can be confirmed as a high-energy zone (as had been observed last year)." to determine whether any artefacts were present in unexplored areas adjacent to Haddow s Valley." to confirm magnetometer anomalies in area of study." 4

5 Methods & Results In order to achieve these objectives the following actions were planned and executed: 1) a general mapping phase included the laying of a series of baselines in an new area of study so as to map the site. This new area was denominated figure of eight. This area was successfully completed and integrated into the generic map of the archaeological area. 2) the seabed within the figure of eight area was thoroughly searched but this proved to be archaeologically sterile. 3) 2 test trenches were excavated within 2x2 meter grids that were laid out in the western part of the area of study. All squares were excavated to bedrock which, at its maximum extent was measured at just over 1.5m below the seabed. No archaeological deposits were encountered in this area.(figure 6). 4) during an inspection/return dive to Haddow s valley archaeological objects were noted on the seabed. Given that in 2013 this area had been mapped and all visible objects had been lifted it confirms this area as a high-energy zone - with winter storms dislodging objects from within the Posidonia mattes and depositing these in Haddow s Valley. 5) we used last year s markers to set baselines in Haddow s valley and proceeded to map, label and retrieve the newly dislodged objects in this area. 6) a series of systematic survey lines were run across the archaeological site using a magnetometer. Data from this survey are still being fully analysed. 7) a third area, denominated lakebed was also mapped (Figure 2). It contained a small concentration of ceramic objects mainly consisting of fragments of mortaria. These were mapped, individually labelled and raised. 8) a series of swim-searches were conducted in areas close to where preliminary results from the 2014 magnetometer survey. One particular area of interest was noted and marked but there was insufficient time to execute any thorough work in this area. 5

6 Figure 2. Concentration of objects in lakebed. Conservation Objects raised in 2013 were desalinated in the months following the end of the field school and are currently deposited in our purpose-built store. All objects raised in 2014 are currently being desalinated at the Department of Classics and Archaeology at the University of Malta. Departmental staff underwent training in the use of a conductivity meter as well as in the required standards for archaeological archiving. Documentation Objects raised are being documented by students from the Department of Classics and Archaeology as part of their training in documentation techniques for archaeology. 6

7 Project management 1) every morning a team briefing was held - during this meeting the day s objectives were described and tasks assigned. 2) a generic dive log was kept on the raft to record dive time, air in/out etc. 3) dives were also logged by individual divers. 4) individuals not diving undertook the cataloguing of objects and other documentation duties. 5) dive logs contained a description section to include tasks executed. 6) During the magnetometer survey two students were assigned to offshore duties. 7) Every student spent a minimum of two days on board: one day dedicated to navigation software and data acquisition and the other dedicated to handling the tow fish. 8) a de-briefing was held at the end of diving operations to discuss the day s achievements. Training This year, the field school was again used to train young archaeologists both in the methodologies and techniques used in underwater excavation as well in in remote sensing. Local and visiting students used Frost s 1967 map and that created in 2013 as base maps to which they compared, contrasted and eventually added their measurements and work. Furthermore, participants garnered first hand excavation and survey experience on a genuine archaeological site. Participants were also trained in marine magnetometer survey. Sessions included: a) setting up and mobilising of vessel (Figure 3); b) familiarisation with specialised survey software; c) practical use of software; d) practical handling of magnetometer tow fish; e) magnetometer data processing and interpretation; and f) vessel de-mobilisation. 7

8 List of participants: Students: 1) Robin Batah - Lebanon (supported by HFF) 2) Ahmed Ghamoud - Tunisia (supported by HFF) 3) Dorothy Chakra - Lebanon (Supported by HFF) 4) Red Dhimitri - Albania (supported by HFF) Technicians: 1) John Harkins - dive master/videographer 2) Doug Gossage - magnetometer engineer 3) Greg Mattson - photographer 4) Mike Spiteri - representative from the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage 5) Elaine Azzopardi - archaeologist and dive technician (supported by the National Facility for Scientific Diving) Tutors: 1) Timmy Gambin 2) Tony Burgess Casual Participants: 1) Matthew Montebello 2) Stephanie Said 3)D. Cardona 8

9 Participants covered the following basic facets and skills: 1. Project management. 2. The setting up of a raft (including preparation and laying of mooring lines). 3. Laying of baselines. 4. Mapping techniques through the use of offsets (Figure 4). 5. Mapping techniques through the use of 3D photography. 6. Conducting a manual bathymetric survey (Figure 5). 7. Setting up and mapping in of grid. 8. Setting up of water dredge. 9. Use of water dredge underwater (Figure 6). 10.Manning of pump (for dredge) on surface. 11.The setting up of an offshore remote sensing survey. 12.The running of a shallow water magnetometer survey. 13.Use of software used for data analysis. 14.Labelling and recording objects underwater. 15.Recording of objects in situ. 16.First aid conservation of archaeological objects. 17.Excavation techniques and keeping a personal notebook covering daily activities. 18.Teamwork. 9

10 Figure 3. Participants being instructed on the magnetometer set up. Figure 4. Instruction in mapping skills 10

11 Figure 5. Training in manual bathymetric survey. Figure 6. Using the refurbished (and more powerful) water dredge. 11

12 Participants attended the following lectures (Figures 7 & 8): 1) Maritime Elements of the Great Siege of Malta : the potential for conflict archaeology underwater - Dr T. Gambin 2) Early underwater archaeological projects: a personal account of some pioneering projects in Malta and Sicily - Mr J. Wood 3) Workshop on specialised software for offshore surveys - Mr D. Goussage 4) Remote Sensing and Archaeology - Mr D. Goussage 5) Deepwater Archaeology - the Phoenician Shipwreck - Dr T. Gambin 6) The Science of dive computers - Ms E. Azzopardi 7) Aviation archaeology in the Central Mediterranean - Mr T. Burgess 8) An introduction to underwater photography - Mr G. Matteson 9) Side Scan Sonar and heritage management - Dr T. Gambin 10)The conservation of metals from an underwater context - Mr A. Catania 11)The conservation of stone and ceramics from an underwater context - Mr F. Chetcuti 12) The conservation of organics from an underwater context - Mr J. Licari 13)The Punic necropolis at Rabat - - Mr D. Cardona 12

13 Figure 7. Workshop on specialised survey software." Figure 8. Attending lectures.% 13

14 Participants attended the following site visits: 1) The Malta Malta maritime Museum 2) The historic waterfront of Birgu 3) The Inquisitor s Palace in Brigu 4) The National Museum of Archaeology 5) The Roman Domus in Rabat 6) The catacombs in Rabat 7) Ongoing excavations of a Punic necropolis in Rabat 8) The ancient walled city of Mdina 9) Bristol Beaufighter - an underwater historic aircraft crash site (Figure 9) 10)The UNESCO World Heritage City of Valletta 14

15 Figure 9. Visit to aircraft crash site underwater." 15

16 Outreach In the follow up to the 2013 Field School a public lecture entitled Four decades later: Revisiting Honor Frost's excavation at Mellieha Bay was delivered to the general public through the Malta Archaeological Society. A number of lectures on the pioneers of underwater archaeology were also delivered to secondary students in Malta and Gozo. During the project a group of local dive instructors were taken on a tour of the site whilst the participants were undertaking various duties. This initiative helped the instructors appreciate the site and the work that is being done which. It is hoped that this appreciation will be transmitted to their students and the local diving community. This year s public lecture is going to be delivered in the village of Mellieha itself in conjunction with the Mellieha Local Council. Publicity 1) Updates on on the 2014 project/field school were posted on the Department s facebook page. 2) Article in Times of Malta covering 2013 Field School Published: 3) Article for Malta Today in preparation. 4) Campus FM transmitted the interview about the Malta Field School. 5) A video shot and produced by one of the dive instructors has been uploaded to youtube: Future Work It is envisaged that the 2015 the field school will return to the Mellieha Bay site in order to accomplish the following: 1) To continue to train young maritime archaeologists 2) to map an extensive sandy area to the west of Haddow s Valley 3) to excavate at least two areas that coincide with the new (2014) magnetometer anomalies 4) to map artefacts in new areas located during the 2014 field school 5) to continue to explore other areas of archaeological potential within Meliieha Bay All photographs: G. Mattson at 16

17 Appendix A - map of Haddow s Valley produced by students in

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