Research and Projects Committee
Bill Utley, Chair; Bob Hayes; Rich Eilers
Virginia Maritime Archaeology
We believe that a comprehensive history of Virginia must include frequent references to the vast and intricate maritime system that has existed in The Chesapeake Bay and Virginia since prehistoric times. From Native American watercraft to the earliest voyages of European exploration, to humble beginnings at Jamestown, to commercial expansion in the 18th century and beyond, ships and seafaring played a major role in Virginia’s development. Yet Virginians have been slow to embrace this connection with the sea. Very few underwater archaeology projects have taken place in the waters of the Commonwealth.
This is in spite of the fact that Virginia’s waters are vast and are known to contain literally thousands of shipwrecks. Virginia-owned lands include roughly 2300 square miles of submerged bottomlands—an area larger than the entire state of Delaware!—and more than 5000 miles of shoreline. A study during the 1980s identified approximately 2000 shipwrecks in Virginia waters, just up to the year 1925.
The primary goal of the ASV Maritime Heritage Chapter is to locate, study, and protect submerged archaeological sites in Virginia waters through cooperation between professional and avocational archaeologists and other interest citizens. This effort will be headed up by our Research and Planning Committee. Both divers and non-divers can make important contributions to this goal.
This website will serve as a source of information on the chapter’s plans and activities and how to get involved, as well as provide information for further study. The most useful publications on Virginia maritime heritage include the following (click on the highlighted links to learn more) publications:
“Contributions From Underwater Archaeology to a More Comprehensive Understanding of Virginia History,” by John D. Broadwater, in The Historical Archaeology of Virginia from Initial Settlement to the Present: Overview and New Directions. Archeological Society of Virginia, 2017. Buy it here.
An Assessment of Virginia’s Underwater Cultural Resources, Survey and Planning Report Series No. 3. Available from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
“Underwater Archaeology in Virginia: The Missing Link,” by John D. Broadwater, in The Archaeology of 18th-Century Virginia (ASV No. 35), Available from the Archeological Society of Virginia.