Jon Carpenter

The conservation component of the Maritime Archaeological Programme comprises the following:

 A CONSERVATION TRAINING PROGRAMME A series of illustrated lectures and tutorials have been presented to students of conservation. These covered the effect of the underwater environment on shipwreck sites and materials (artefacts), on-site conservation and artefact treatments.

 THE ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS OF UNDERWATER SITES This aspect has involved the assessment and recording of the conditions affecting shipwreck sites and artefacts in Galle Harbour. This also includes the acquisition of pH and corrosion data from specific artefact materials.
RTEFACT MATERIALS A varied selection of artefact materials have been recovered, both organic and inorganic. Conservation procedures and treatments have been demonstrated for each material type.

 A MARITIME ARCHAEOLOGICAL CONSERVATION LABORATORY There is potential to recover a very large and varied collection of artefacts from Galle Harbour. This has necessitated the establishment of a dedicated conservation laboratory to ensure artefact materials are treated and stabilised.Figure 13. The conservation laboratory on the Import Jetty.

Rukshan Amal Jayewardene
As part of the programme of maritime archaeological fieldwork, a group of Sri Lankan archaeologists was given maritime archaeological and conservation training. Eight trainees are participating in this seasonís programme; of these, five participated in the 1992/93 programme. This seasonís work is being carried out over a six week period and builds on the training given in the 1992/93 season. Since 1993 the trainees have undergone PADI open water diving training. The programme provides a basic and general understanding of all aspects of maritime archaeology, with exposure to the wide range of activities involved in a multidisciplinary approach. The objective is to train Sri Lankan archaeologists in maritime archaeological techniques, providing a pool of skilled local people to manage Sri Lankaís extensive underwater resource.

Initially we practised underwater search and survey techniques in Unawatuna Bay; already we have successfully used the survey technique known as a circular jackstay search to locate archaeologically significant objects in Galle Harbour. We have also used a water dredge to excavate at the two sites with ongoing work, namely Site G, the ballast mound site, and Site P, the anchor site. Site G and Site P have very different seabed characteristics: Site G at the foot of Rumassala is rocky in parts and Site P in the harbour is sandy and muddy. Low visibility during dredging and excavation is, however, common to both sites. We also benefited greatly from being able to listen to the discussions on raising the stone anchors. The practical considerations taken into account and the preparation for potential problems were very educational.


We are all dealing with a lot of new information on a day to day basis. There is a fair amount of theory and classroom work involved in the training, however we all feel that the most invaluable part of the training programme is the practical experience which we gain from working with experienced marine archaeologists. This on-the-job training cannot be replaced by any amount of classroom work. However, diving is not without its dangers; proper training and good presence of mind at all times are important to minimise the chance of an underwater accident which could result in the loss of life or limb.

Most of us had some prior familiarity with trilateration and offset planning in archaeology (both are methods of measuring sites and drawing up plans to scale). However, learning to do these tasks underwater opens oneís eyes to the difficulties of working in this new environment.

The trainees are being familiarised with seabed survey techniques which involve the use of side-scan sonar and magnetometer. The use of a differential GPS (Global Positioning System) and its application in underwater archaeology is being covered. Underwater photography is another important aspect of the training programme. Computers are used in all aspects of recording, plotting sites and the analysis of artefacts. The training in underwater archaeological techniques has been carried out in a progressive fashion. Initial demonstrations are on dry land, then in the pool, then at Unawatuna Bay and finally at greater depths on actual wreck sites in Galle Harbour. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Professor Jeremy Green and his team, especially our trainers namely Karen, Dena, Jinky and Corioli for their kind and patient instruction. Despite the attendant difficulties of working underwater the classroom under the sea is a lot more fun than that on dry land. Finally we would like to thank the heads of the Archaeological Department, the Central Cultural Funds, the Museums Department and Post Graduate Institute of Archaeological Research, and all the others who have enabled this maritime archaeological training programme to become a reality. NEXT PAGE

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