Archaeological oceanography and environmental characterization of shipwrecks in the Black Sea

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The August 2007 expedition to the Black Sea continued a multiyear project designed to locate and study ancient shipwrecks in deep water. The expedition revisited and investigated two shipwrecks, Sinop D (at 325 m depth off Sinop, Turkey) and Chersonesos A (at 135 m depth off Sevastopol, Ukraine). These wreck sites are good case studies for our research because they are located in different parts of the Black Sea, in anoxic and suboxic waters, respectively. Preliminary data reported here are from seawater samples taken from around the wrecks and a year-long collection of temperature, salinity, and pressure data. Trace-element data from the seawater samples are consistent with reported processes and values for the Black Sea. The oceanographic sensor data confi rm the stagnant nature of the anoxic water layer that has allowed for the high level of preservation of the Sinop D wreck site. We also discuss the design and placement of two sets of experiments left in situ to characterize the decay rates of common materials found on ancient shipwrecks, including wood and metal. By providing ways to understand the chemical and physical processes that characterize different parts of the Black Sea water column, these wrecks are important sites for (1) determining the preservation potentials of cultural materials in deep water, and (2) informing the design of methodologies necessary to conserve them. © 2011 Geological Society of America.

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Special Paper of the Geological Society of America