Why is water so important to Wisconsin's history and development? How and why do underwater archaeologists do what they do? Find answers to these questions (and more) here.
Archaeology is defined as the scientific study of human culture through the investigation and interpretation of artifacts and other cultural remains. These "artifacts" and "cultural remains" may be as large as a complete sawmill or ship, or as small and personal as clothing, eating utensils, and other everyday items.
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Different geographic areas offer certain advantages and challenges for underwater archaeologists, and the Great Lakes are no exception. The lakes' cold, fresh water offer unparalleled site preservation, often preserving entire ships and their contents intact. Conversely, the cold temperatures of the Great Lakes offer a formidable challenge to archaeologists.
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Several different methods can be used to document a shipwreck site. In fact, field archaeologists may spend their entire careers learning and improving their skills in site survey, documentation, and excavation.
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Conservation is a scientifically designed strategy to preserve waterlogged artifacts from loss, injury, decay, or waste. Using established procedures, an artifact is initially preserved by controlling the surrounding environment to minimize decay. While in the field, this means keeping the artifact wet. Back at the lab, conservation procedures additionally restore and dehydrate water-soaked artifacts in a controlled environment, stabilizing them against further deterioration.
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Find in depth histories, underwater images, video, archaeological maps and more at this Society and Sea Grant collaborative Web site.
Wisconsin's Great Lakes Shipwrecks »
Explore Wisconsin's historic shipwrecks through underwater video
See it for yourself »
Check out a 3D model of a typical Great Lakes schooner
How was a Great Lakes schooner built? »
Search thousands of entries in the Door County Advocate
Maritime Wisconsin Newspaper Database »
Visit the Great Lakes Maritime History Project
Find more historic photographs »
A glossary of nautical terms
What is it? »