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Insight: Challenge of the Deep Volume 52 Number 3, May/June 1999
by James Wiseman

Deep-sea archaeology offers exciting research opportunities, as well as a host of challenges for those venturing into the vast underwater regions made accessible by recent technological advances. These issues were explored and debated at a lively, informative conference held in January at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, attended by some 60 archaeologists, engineers, cultural resource managers, and scientists from around the world. There were even a few land-based archaeologists among the participants (including me), all deeply impressed by the potential for future research.

In assessing the potential impact of opening the deep sea to archaeological exploration, some scholars commented that they do not see this as a new era in archaeology, because the practice of archaeology is not likely to be changed by it. That is, archaeology carried out in shallow or deep water is still archaeology, and basic archaeological principles and methods still apply. Most of us at the conference seemed to agree. But it is worth adding that new techniques and technological advances often provide not only tools for answering questions already framed, but also, sometimes, questions we never before thought of asking.

James Wiseman is a contributing editor to ARCHAEOLOGY and professor of archaeology, art history, and classics at Boston University. The author thanks Ricardo J. Elia, David A. Mindell, and Anna Marguerite McCann.

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© 1999 by the Archaeological Institute of America
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