Artifact Park – Akrotiri Wreck
Artifact Park – Akrotiri Wreck
Artifact Park and the new Underwater Archaeology Diver Program – Part I
Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology
The ACUA has been at the forefront of underwater archaeology for more than 50 years. The ACUA serves as an international advisory body on issues relating to underwater archaeology, conservation, and submerged cultural resources management. It is working to educate scholars, governments, sport divers, and the general public about underwater archaeology and the preservation of underwater resources.
by Roger J. Barski
Founder and Director of the Nautical Archaeology Group – Great Lakes Region.
Note: Click any photo to see a larger view.
There is an old saying that goes something like this; “It is much easier to teach an archaeologist how to dive than it is to teach divers archaeology.” Since the 1950’s, when this statement was first coined, that may have well been very true. However, with the recent development of Artifact Park at Haigh Quarry and the new Underwater Archaeology Diver program released through Scuba Diving International (SDI), the old saying may have finally met its match here in the Midwest.
During the summer of 2007, a new underwater training facility for archaeology called Artifact Park was constructed and completed at Haigh Quarry, Kankakee, Illinois. This full-size training facility, along with a four-part training program, was designed to educate and certify recreational scuba divers on the proper methods and techniques of underwater survey work. In the beginning Artifact Park represented a single cargo ship that foundered during a storm 2400 years ago in the Mediterranean Sea. It measures 10 m (32 feet) in length by 4 m (12 feet) wide. It has been officially dubbed the Akrotiri Wreck and lies in less than 9 m (28 feet) of water. The Akrotiri wreck’s main cargo consists of clay pots (amphorae), a pair of large earthen jars (pithoi), stone anchors, a load of copper ingots, ballast stones, and a galley area with galley artifacts. It also includes a permanent three meter by three meter square metal survey grid. The layout for this wreck site is loosely based on the discovery of the Kyrenia Ship that was surveyed and excavated off the northern coast of Cyprus in 1968 under the direction of Michael L. Katzev of the University of Pennsylvania.
No sooner was the Akrotiri wreck site completed that plans were hatched to immediately expand the Park by adding five new smaller sites. The first of those sites, Anchor Alley, was constructed and put into place during the spring of 2008. Anchor Alley represents a cross section of nine stone and wooden anchors dating back from the 4th century B.C. to 600 A.D. The remaining four sites will be inserted into different areas of the quarry within the next few years.
The success of the Artifact Park project was felt prior to its completion by the end of the 2007 dive season. The interest that was generated by Haigh Quarry divers, certified instructors, and the general public was overwhelming, to say the least. Many of the divers that were interviewed on-site at the quarry or at the annual scuba convention, Our World Underwater, last year had expressed a desire to learn more about underwater archaeology now that both Park and training program were in place.
The state of Illinois has long been involved in supporting land-based archaeological projects conducted within its borders. The results obtained from these projects have produced a wealth of information and knowledge that has been disseminated back into the public sector through the educational system and printed reports. However, after careful research into the matter, it was determined that none of these past projects have been completed on an actual underwater site. It is also a fact that not one anthropology department located at any university or college in Illinois has any type of certified program solely dedicated to instructing scuba divers on how to properly conduct an underwater survey for archaeology. All formal instruction remains land-based. It was from this realization that the concept of Artifact Park and the Underwater Archaeology Diver program came to be.
The Underwater Archaeology Diver Program
The new Underwater Archaeology Diver program was carefully designed so that the recreational diver, under the direct supervision of a trained SDI instructor, will be able to learn the necessary techniques of underwater archaeology within a very short period of time. A total hands-on-approach has been worked into every aspect of each individual course and upon completion of the four-part certification program the student diver will have gained the necessary knowledge needed to successfully map and survey any shipwreck or submerged cultural resource site they are called to work on. To help simplify and speed up the work process, an innovative method of underwater communication was developed specifically for the program. This new device is called the Slate Language Chart for Underwater Archaeology©.
First Class Completed
The first four team members to successfully complete the Underwater Archaeology Diver-Level One course at Haigh Quarry were local Illinois divers Mitch Nevins of Palos Park, John Loftus of Homewood, Rob Smallwood of Downers Grove, and Keith McKune of Sugar Grove. They completed their fourth and final dive and met all the requirements needed to graduate on Saturday, October 4, 2008. After the final dive, John Loftus, a long time member of the Underwater Archaeology Society of Chicago and no stranger to survey work, summed it up best by shaking his head and saying that “this was one comprehensive course.”
The instructor’s manual for the Level One course is currently being revised based on the experience gained by teaching this first class. Once all corrections and additions have been made the manual will be released to the general public worldwide through the training agency, Scuba Diving International (SDI). A Level One student manual is also in the works that will be used in conjunction with the classroom, pool, and open-water sessions. The Underwater Archaeology Diver-Level Two course is slated for release in time for Our World Underwater 2009.
The Maritime History of Illinois
Positioned within the sixty-three miles of lakeshore that Illinois borders with Lake Michigan, there is a large collection of shipwrecks that carry a history all of their own. Between the Indiana/Illinois border and Evanston lay at least two dozen known shipwrecks with a direct connection to the rapid development of Chicago and its then thriving river port. Sitting on the bottom of Lake Michigan just offshore from her beaches are the wooden schooners, barges, tugs, and iron-haul vessels that once brought bulk cargo and people from the east to settle in the new territories in the early 1800’s. If it were not for these vessels and the Buffalo-Lake Michigan trade route, along with the inland canal systems developed shortly thereafter, the state of Illinois’ growth would never have happened the way it did—and Chicago would probably never have grown into the major city that it is today.
It is within the state of Illinois’ best interest that proper surveys be conducted on these wreck sites to record and preserve the maritime history of our state—before it completely disappears. Within the past twenty years the condition of these shipwrecks has sadly deteriorated. Some of them have been reduced to piles of timber because of the violent wind, wave, and weather conditions that are associated with the southern tip of Lake Michigan. Additional problems such as Zebra Mussels and outright vandalism have also contributed to their demise. The task of conducting this type of underwater work cannot be done haphazardly by amateurs. It must be completed to the highest archaeological standards by properly trained and certified scuba divers. Under the direct supervision of an archaeologist, it will be these new certified divers of the Underwater Archaeology Diver program and Artifact Park that will take on the responsibility of properly recording the historic shipwrecks and submerged sites that lie in Illinois waters and throughout the Great Lakes region.
Any individual, group, school, or certified instructor interested in taking the Underwater Archaeology Diver-Level One course can contact Dan or Cindy Howard at D.J.’s Scuba Locker, Lyons, Illinois 708.442.4388.
Dan Howard and Roger J. Barski are the authors and certified instructors of the new Underwater Archaeology Diver Program through Scuba Diving International (SDI).