10. Nautical recording and reconstruction

Wheel remains among wreck: Image courtesy of Wessex ArchaeologyThe recording of nautical archaeological remains should use appropriate methods and practices to provide a sufficiently detailed record of a vessel or vessel remains as-found which, where possible, can allow for an informed and reliable reconstruction of the vessel. This reconstruction can take several forms, such as a physical reconstruction, or reconstruction on paper or digitally. If a reliable reconstruction is not possible, as in the case of a single find of part of a vessel, then a sufficient record should be attained to allow for an informed _interpretation_ of the overall building characteristics, general date and possible size of the original vessel. The reconstruction process will create a valid model or drawings to allow reliable interpretation of the vessel.

Nautical archaeological remains are considered to be the physical remains of any waterborne vessel. This is irrespective of the material they are constructed from, the totality of the remains or the environment where they are found. Nautical archaeological remains include all features and finds directly associated with a vessel’s construction, fastening, fittings, propulsion, steering, anchoring and mooring. Nautical archaeological remains also include remains of individual constructional parts of a vessel sometimes found as isolated finds or reused in a non-nautical context. The physical properties of nautical archaeological remains can change, for example, as in the case of the Sutton Hoo vessel, where the wood of the vessel hull had degraded leaving only an impression of the hull outlined by the iron rivets. All other archaeological finds or features found in association with nautical remains, such as personal belongings, navigational equipment, ordnance, human remains and cargo are not covered by this guidance, although you should refer to the guidance documents for Excavation and Finds Work for guidance in dealing with such material. See [Glossary: Technical Archaeological Terms](/docs/16c) for key terms related to nautical recording.

Nautical recording and reconstruction may occur in a number of circumstances, including:

* in response to a proposed development which threatens the archaeological resource
* as part of the planning process and/or development plan policy
* within research not generated by a specific threat to the archaeological resource
* in connection with the preparation of management plans by private, local, national, or international bodies

Please note that there are other forms of maritime remains to be found too, including submerged prehistoric sites, harbour and fishing structures, and aircraft. This guidance currently deals with nautical remains (vessels) primarily as it is based on existing IfA guidance. However, this guidance will be extended in due course. In the meantime, advice and guidance is available through searching resources such as the [English Heritage publications site](http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications) or contacting specialist organisations such as the [Nautical Archaeology Society](http://www.nauticalarchaeologysociety.org/) of the IfA’s [Maritime Affairs Group](http://www.archaeologists.net/groups/maritime).

## Checklist

* Seek specialist advice and support from a Nautical Archaeological Specialist.
* Create a project specification or design ahead of any work, in consultation with the appropriate national curator.
* Show your project design to your local authority archaeologist or equivalent, as well as the national agency curator, and keep them informed of any work you are planning to carry out.
* Keep full and proper records, including pro forma recording sheets as appropriate.
* Keep in mind Health and Safety requirements including carrying out risk assessments.
* Be mindful of the different legal requirements concerning nautical finds.
* Make sure you are aware of what to do in the event of encountering human remains.
* Apply good practice to post-excavation work, calling on the help of specialists.
* Select the appropriate level of documenting for your as-found (_in situ_) record of any vessel being studied.
* If you are studying a vessel, be sure to record the hull-form (shape).
* If researching a vessel, consult appropriate existing documentation, looking in particular for information about the historical context of the vessel if this is known.
* Consider using dendrochronology to inform both the vessel’s age and its social and environmental context.
* Use environmental sampling to inform conditions relating to the vessel.
* It is important to write up your research and investigations, and to disseminate to national curators at the very least. If you are investigating marine or nautical artefacts, you will need to take into account the need for specialist treatment and check that a suitable repository can be found.
* If you are investigating marine or nautical artefacts, you will need to take into account the need for specialist treatment and check that a suitable repository can be found.
* Consider potential confidentiality issues and seek specialist advice.
* Consider whether organising an event for the Festival of British Archaeology and/or Scottish Archaeology Month to publicise your work would be possible.

Submarine wreck mapping: Image courtesy of Wessex Archaeology

1. Nautical archaeological remains are just as important as archaeological sites and resources on dry land, despite the fact that they are often less visible. As they require a specific type of research and treatment, it is advisable to seek the assistance of an experienced Nautical Archaeological Specialist. It may be appropriate to follow the principles of preservation in situ, for example, rather than attempting to recover any of the finds you encounter. Your local authority archaeologist or equivalent should be able to advise you on whom to approach for advice.

2. As with any archaeological investigation, a project design or specification should be developed ahead of any fieldwork to inform your work. It will be important to contact the relevant national curator regarding any maritime archaeology, for example English Heritage, Cadw or Historic Scotland. See [Project design and project report checklists and definitions](/docs/17) (Module 17) for a checklist of what should be included in a nautical archaeological investigation project design.

3. Be sure to show your project design to your local authority archaeologist or equivalent, and the national agency curator, and inform them of your planned work. As well as making them aware of your project, hence contributing to the archaeological record for the local area, this will also help your project as the local authority archaeologist or equivalent will be able to provide feedback about your project design and planned work.

4. Make sure that for any works you carry out you produce full and proper records, including written, graphic, electronic and photographic record as appropriate. This includes using appropriate pro forma sheets as needed.

5. Health and Safety is an important consideration for Nautical archaeological recording, as with any archaeological investigation. It is worth remembering that some equipment that you will use may be subject to specific statutory controls – for example, diving equipment is subject to the [Diving Operations at Work Regulations](http://www.uk-sdsc.com/divingatwork.htm), so make sure you are familiar with any relevant requirements. Model risk assessments to help you decide on appropriate actions to increase work safety can be found in the [IfA risk assessment documents](http://www.archaeologists.net/codes/ifa).

6. It is very important to be aware of any legislative requirements attached to Nautical archaeological remains. Ownership of material which has come from a vessel (classified as ‘wreck’) is dealt with under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, and any wreck material should be declared to the Receiver of Wreck in the [Maritime and the Coastguard Agency](http://www.dft.gov.uk/mca). In Scotland, The Marine Scotland Act covers Historic Marine Protected Areas, where special licencing requirements may apply. In the Bailiwick of Guernsey, this is covered by The Wreck and Salvage (Vessels and Aircraft) Laws 1986-98, further details of which may be obtained from the Archaeology Officer, Guernsey Museum. If in Northern Ireland, a license is required for any excavation (including in an underwater context). Finders should also be aware of their obligations under the Treasure Act, if applicable.

7. In the event that human remains are encountered, you should contact the police in the first instance. There are guidelines from the Ministry of Justice (see http://www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/burials.htm), and an exhumation licence should be applied for in most instances before excavation of the human remains can proceed. You should also seek the assistance of an archaeological human remains specialist if possible. For further information, including an email for seeking assistance, please visit the [British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarcheaology (BABAO)](http://www.babao.org.uk).

8. All post-fieldwork analysis and assessment should be carried out by appropriately experienced/qualified individuals, and you should be mindful of post-excavation procedures (see [Research and Conservation of artefacts (finds work)](/docs/9) (Module 9)). Be sure to contact specialists, including nautical and marine archaeologists, for advice and help.
Formby Tidepole: Image courtesy of Dave McAleavy
9. Recording Nautical archaeological remains is very important, and should produce an accurate ‘**as-found**’ record of the vessel under scrutiny. ‘As-found’ simply means a record of the Nautical archaeological resource as it was recorded _in situ_. There are generally considered to be three different levels of documentation that can be used, which are described in the IfA Standards and Guidance on Nautical Recording (listed below in further reading), so decide the level needed in line with the significance of the site and the vessel that you are investigating. Seek advice from a specialist to help with making this decision.

10. A primary research aim of all Nautical archaeological recording should be an understanding of the vessels hull-form and construction, but whether this can be attempted will depend on the totality of the remains of the vessel. Consider computer-aided analysis for reconstructions, and remember to question the reliability of any reconstructions made, rather than assuming no room for error (for example, it might be assumed that all hull-forms are symmetrical, but this might not be the case for all vessels). A detailed description of reconstruction and its analysis can be found in the IfA’s Standards and guidance for nautical archaeological recording (listed below), Sections 10-16.

11. Make sure that you have consulted existing published and unpublished sources of information, including historical sources. For Nautical remains of vessels from a historically-documented period, it is possible that there will be constructional drawings or descriptions that can help you develop your project design ahead of the fieldwork, as well as assess the findings afterwards. However, use these sources with caution, as they may not be a true reflection at the time of loss or abandonment, as modifications may have been made to the vessel in the meantime. Consider in your survey of the history of the vessel: political history; economic history; social history, and technological development.

12. Consider applying dendrochronology, utilising a qualified dendrochronologist, where appropriate. This can help date a vessel, as well as inform wider research about timber usage and forest environment.

13. Remember to include environmental sampling as part of your investigation. English Heritage has guidance available (listed below) about carrying this out. Your sampling strategy should take into account any previous work on the site, and you should look for evidence that informs: ship-borne life (including diet and ship-borne diseases); cargos (including their provenance and trade routes); previous uses; repairs and rebuilds; identification of sea routes, and if possible the understanding of the wrecking process and post-depositional history of the vessel.
All action archaeology! Diver explores wreck: Image courtesy of Wessex Archaeology
14. Create a report of your work, and be sure to disseminate your findings. As a minimum, you should send a site summary or (if in Scotland) a data structure report to the appropriate Sites and Monuments Record or Historic Environment Record, the National Archaeological Record or equivalent, and where appropriate the central government conservation organisation. This description should take the form of a report which contains enough information for your conclusions to be scrutinised. The best way to submit this report if your site is in England, Scotland or Wales is online, via the [OASIS system](http://www.oasis.ac.uk). In Wales, the national repository for data is [RCAHMW](http://www.rcahmw.gov.uk) while the material archive should go to an appropriate museum. In Scotland, the national repository for data is [RCAHMS](http://www.rcahms.gov.uk) while any material archive should go to National Museums Scotland or a local museum or depository. In Scotland too, a site summary should be prepared for _Discovery and Excavation in Scotland_ (DES), published by Archaeology Scotland. If you have submitted your report through OASIS, DES will be notified automatically. In Northern Ireland, the Built Heritage Directorate of the Department of the Environment is the statutory data archive, whilst it is also advisable to submit digital and paper archives to the Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Ulster, which is increasingly becoming a key repository for maritime archaeological research in Northern Ireland. Further information can be found at www.science.ulster.ac.uk/cma. By using the OASIS system you will also be given the opportunity to have your report included in the ADS ‘grey literature library’ of unpublished fieldwork reports, which will be available online. A checklist of points to include in a project report and a data structure report can be found in [Project design and project report checklists and definitions](/docs/17) (Module 17) of this document.

15. Remember, if you are recovering finds as part of your maritime, nautical or underwater archaeology project, that there may be ongoing obligations in terms of time, facilities and money for the continued storage and conservation of these finds. Due to the specialist requirements of maritime finds, it may prove difficult to find a suitable repository for the finds archive, and so make sure you have investigated this and taken advice from specialists before embarking on your project.

16. If you are engaged in evaluation of maritime archaeology and a significant discovery is made, you may need to keep this confidential until advice from the appropriate national curator (e.g. English Heritage or Historic Scotland) has been sought.

17. You could also consider publicising your work through public events, such as organising an event for the [Festival of British Archaeology](http://www.archaeologyfestival.org.uk) or [Scottish Archaeology Month](http://www.scottisharchaeology.org.uk/?q=node/33).

## Suggested further reading

### IfA Standards and Guidance

* [IfA Standards and Guidance for nautical recording and reconstruction](http://www.archaeologists.net/sites/default/files/node-files/ifa_standar...) (pdf file)
* [IfA Introduction to Standards and Guidance](http://www.archaeologists.net/sites/default/files/node-files/ifa_standar...) (pdf file)
* [IfA Appendices to Standards and Guidance](http://www.archaeologists.net/sites/default/files/node-files/ifa_standar...) (pdf file)

### CBA Practical Handbooks

* Steiner, M. (2006) _Approaches to Archaeological Illustration: A Handbook_. York, Council for British Archaeology, Practical Handbook Series no. 18
* Dellino-Musgrave, V. (forthcoming) _Marine Archaeology: A Handbook_. York, Council for British Archaeology, Practical Handbook Series no. 20

All CBA Practical Handbooks are available online at: http://www.britarch.ac.uk/books/handbooks or at CBA bookstalls at events across the country (see http://www.britarch.ac.uk/books/events)

### Other References

* Bowens, A. (ed) (2008) _Underwater Archaeology: the NAS Guide to Principles and Practice_. Nautical Archaeology Society/Blackwell.
* British Marine Aggregate Producers Association (BMAPA) (2003) _Marine Aggregate Industry Protocol for the Reporting of Finds of Archaeological Interest_. [Visit website](http://www.wessexarch.co.uk/projects/marine/bmapa/index.html)
* Brown, D. (2007) _Archaeological Archives. A guide to best practice in creation, compilation, transfer and curation_. Institute for Archaeologists on behalf of the Archaeological Archives Forum. Available as free of charge hard copy on request from the IfA (http://www.archaeologists.net) or [downloadable PDF document](http://www.britarch.ac.uk/archives/Archives_Best_Practice.pdf).
* English Heritage (2002) _Environmental Archaeology: a Guide to the Theory and Practice of Methods, from Sampling and Recovery to Post-Excavation_. [Visit website](http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications/environmental-archaeology)
* Historic Scotland (1996) _Archaeology Procedure Paper 2. Project design, implementation and archiving_. Edinburgh, Historic Scotland.
* Marine Scotland Act 2010. [Visit website](http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/marine/seamanagement/marineact)
* Merchant Shipping Act 1995. [Visit website](http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1995/21/contents)

### Other Guidance Sources

* The Nautical Archaeology Society run a [training scheme for volunteers](http://www.nauticalarchaeologysociety.org/training/index.php) involved in maritime and underwater archaeology.
* The [UK Scientific Diving Supervisory Committee](http://www.uk-sdsc.com) include on their website information about diving at work regulations, and links to information on archaeological diving.
* English Heritage also provide a database of guidelines and standards for different elements of archaeological practice. Most can be downloaded as free .pdf documents. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications
* For more detailed advice on digital archiving, see the advice pages offered by the Archaeology Data Service: http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/project/goodguides/g2gp.html and http://guides.archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/.
* [Scotland’s Rural Past](www.scotlandsruralpast.org.uk) is a five-year HLF-funded project working across Scotland which provides local communities with an opportunity to get involved with surveying and recording settlement sites in their local areas. SRP have provided a [set of guidance for their groups](http://www.scotlandsruralpast.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=a...), much of which deals with different archaeological methods.