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Deep sea conference begins Friday

Experts in archaeology, oceanography and underwater vehicle engineering will convene at MIT April 26-28 for a conference on deep sea archaeology.

This is the second conference in this new field of research; the first was held on campus in January 1999. That conference was organized by MIT's Deeparch research group in deep sea archaeology, led by David Mindell, the Dibner Associate Professor of the History of Manufacturing and Engineering in the Program on Science, Technology and Society, who has participated in some of the most highly publicized deep sea discoveries to date. He and Aaron Brody, a lecturer in archaeology and technology in the STS program, organized this week's conference.

Conferees will discuss recent advances in deep submergence vehicles that are making it possible to locate, document, sample and excavate archaeological sites in waters ranging from 100 meters to 6,000 meters in depth.

The program will include reports about deep sea explorations in the Gulf of Mexico, the Mediterranean Sea, Lake Champlain and the Atlantic Ocean. Papers on 1,500-year-old shipwrecks in the Black Sea and the 1999 Ashkelon Phoenician ship exploration will be presented for discussion.

Plenary talks will be held Friday--by Mindell on "New Archaeological Uses of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles" and by Anna Marguerite McCann, an archaeologist who is a visiting scholar at MIT, on "East Meets West in the Deep Sea off Skerki Bank." Saturday's sessions will focus on archaeology, technology, and policy and ethical concerns, with about 30 papers being presented. A panel discussion on education in deep sea archaeology will be held Sunday morning.

The first conference laid the foundations for the new field and included discussion about ethics--who should own and manage shipwrecks on the deep ocean floor in international waters--and raised scientific questions about the exploration and management of archaeological "digs" in deep water.

Since then, many researchers have forged ahead in this field, conducting remote and robotic operations in deep waters requiring a unique fusion of archaeology, engineering and oceanography.

Presenters include scholars from MIT and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Institute for Exploration, the Institute of Nautical Archaeology, NOAA and other universities, government agencies and nautical companies.

The conference begins at 4 p.m. Friday, April 26 in the Bush Room (10-105) and runs through noon Sunday, April 28. It is open to the MIT community at no charge. Advance registration and payment ($150 for students, $200 for others) are required for people outside the Institute. For more information or to register, contact Brody at x3-6264.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 24, 2002.

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