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August 2006 & July-August 2007Interactive Dig Black Sea: Shipwreck Research Project
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Our home and operational base for that last two weeks--the camp is a place we will all miss.
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Megan Goetsch, our photographer and videographer, prepares to photo the artifacts and add them to our ever expanding digital archive.
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While larger amphora were traded as containers and valued for their contents, glazeware pottery such as this bowl (left) was a luxury item that was valued for its bright colors in tableware sets. Some glazeware pottery we have found (right) is highly decorated and very brightly colored.
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Student team member, Hillary Smith, manually excavates underwater.
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Sometimes we find artifacts, like this jug (left), that appear in have been in use on the ship by the crew rather than part of the cargo. Tantalizing finds like these further the theory that we have in fact found the Pisa wreck. A glob of melted glass (right) with pebbles embedded in it before it cooled. This seems like evidence that the ship went down in a firey blaze as the narrative source indicates.
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Photographer Megan Goetsch prepares the video camera for a dive. We have documented hours of our work above and below water with our digital camcorder and Equinox camera housing. We plan to edit a short documentary film to help educate and promote the project.
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Refueling: just one of the problems of using the compressor for long periods of time without a support boat. To stay out of the wind and waves, we take refuge behind our dive platform to refuel for the next group of divers.
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Often there is just not enough time in the day to do all out work and we continue to work even after sunset documenting the finds and completing paperwork.
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Fieldschool Team Session 1 signing off. Here we are with a collection of finds from out last day of diving and our Airline hookah compressor.

Photos courtesy BSSRP. Click on images for larger versions where available.
by Ben Goetsch

From the Field: August 21, 2006

Leaving Crimea

After our last two days of diving in Novy Svet on the Pisa Wreck, the dive bags were packed with soggy gear and we all prepared for the going away party that our Ukrainian friends had planned for us Americanski. I always look forward to these events as it is the only time our director, Dr. Zelenko, allows wine at the dinner table and conversation is always at its best. In between the many toasts, it is a time to rejoice, remember, and to look to the future.

As the leader of this fine group of students, my heart swells with pride when I consider what we have accomplished here in the short space of two weeks. From the first preliminary dives to our last action-packed day of diving, every one has improved as a diver, an archaeologist, and even as a speaker of the Russian language. Mastering the art of using our hookah compressor for our purposes was no small feat either, and I am forever indebted to the team for their patience and creative problem solving skills.

The results of our hard work are evident in some of the finds we were able to bring to the surface. As I mentioned before, amphorae are among the most numerous and helpful artifacts that we uncover. Fragments of them can be especially helpful if they represent the top of the vessel with handles and rim, or if they bear markings of any kind. Markings can be stamps made on the surface of the vessels before firing (such as we find on pithoi rims), or graffiti, which is scratched directly on the surface of the ceramic after firing. This kind of graffiti is not the kind of vandalism that we think of today, but rather a short hand symbol or pictogram that represents the owner, destination, or manufacturer of the vessel or contents. We find a range of graffiti on amphorae usually on the base of the handle or near the sloping shoulder of the vessel.

[image] A typical day of excavation brings backs dozens of artifacts for further study.

Ben Goetsch holds a rim fragment of a large pithos, a big vessel (often as tall as a man and many feet in diameter) used for water storage. The Pisa wreck had many of these vessels as much water was needed for its large crew. We theorize that if we can find the place of production for this type of pithos we may be able to draw conclusions as to where the vessel may have originally sailed from or at least where it was last outfitted for its final voyage. This is just one of the research questions we pursue in the off season. [image]

[image] Notice the stamps that decorate the rim of this pithos fragment. Designs like this may help identify its production site.

This stratched graffiti resembles an "M". Its meaning might have to do with the owner, recipient, or trader of the vessel's contents. [image]

[image] Martina Jirouskova gets ready to bring a group of nice artifacts to the surface. Way to go!

One of the most exciting finds we had on our last day of diving. Team member Hillary Smith, from Colby College, uncovered what at first appeared to be another large fragment of amphora wall about 0.75 meters beneath the surface of the seafloor. Some of these fragments can be quite large, and it is not uncommon for them to be up to three or four feet wide. When a piece of this size is found it is not always clear at first if it is a complete, intact amphora or not. For example, imagine an egg shell half buried in the sand: without digging further around and under the egg, it would be impossible to determine whether the exposed shell were broken or complete beneath the sand. Thus the utmost care is taken to uncover the extent of the piece to find its edges. When all the edges have been clearly uncovered the piece can be gently removed. Initial excavation of Hillary's find led to no discovery of any broken edges, but rather what appeared to be the smooth intact sloping wall of a complete amphora, approximately three feet in length and over a foot in diameter. However, there was a three inch thick 2 by 3 foot slab of stone a top its base, pinning it down. Therefore, the next Herculean task was to excavate the stone itself which lay under half a meter of material in the trench's bulk. The whole endeavor took two and a half hours of hard work, but without our Airline Hookah compressor it would have taken two days of diving on tanks.

[image] Hillary Smith displays her excellent find just moments after its removal from the sediment, a complete amphora from the thirteenth century. The amphora, nicknamed "Hillary's Baby," rests complete except for handles and rim on the beach following the afternoon of hard work it took to raise it to the surface. [image]

The intact amphora, which was the size of a small child, was nicknamed "Hillary's Baby" as she often cradled it and spoke to it softly, not letting it out of her sight for the rest of the day. It almost weighed as much as a child too as it was filled with sediment from the seafloor not long after it reached its watery grave. This made the amphora quite heavy, but it was important for us to ensure that the sediment filling was preserved as the analysis of this material will help us understand what was in the amphora originally and what was happening on the seafloor when the ship did go down. It's essentially an environmental time capsule from 1277 and a value to archaeologists and other scientists such as biologists, climatologists, and oceanographers. It was a find we were all proud of, as it was a team effort to excavate and raise it to the surface.

After our party and many heartfelt goodbyes the next morning, we prepared to go to the train station in Crimea's capitol city, Simferopol. While waiting for our train, we crossed paths with another very special and brave group of students: the project's next fieldschool session team. I had the opportunity to brief them on all our work and they will also be keeping us all updated on their work for the next few weeks. Even though I truly wish I could stay in the Crimea for the rest of the season, I will have to settle for staying with website site in cyberspace and keeping up with the forum. However, my work on the project continues even here in American as I prepare and plan for next year. We have many plans, including a documentary film made from the 10 hours of digital video footage (both above and underwater) that will become an invaluable tool for educating and promoting the project to the public and future students. Now let's all join some new friends as they continue the adventure.

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Goodbye Novy Svet! We will miss you until next year.


[image] We were all proud of the diplomas presented to us by the University of Kiev. They read:

Given in gratitude for having taken part in underwater archaeological research at the mediaeval shipwreck in the Black Sea in the Ukrainian Crimea. Your enthusiasm and dedication to the field of underwater archaeology have been of great help to the success of the Center for Underwater Archaeology research project.

With many thanks,
August 2006

On behalf of the entire staff,
Dr. Sergei Zelenko
Senior Researcher at the Kyiv National University,
a Head of the Center for Underwater Archaeology

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