Flinders to lead global underwater archaeology network

Archaeologists uncover a submerged 7000-year old Neolithic village in the Mediterranean, drowned thousands of years ago by rising sea levels.

From the historic shipwrecks off the Australian coasts to the classical harbours and submerged villages of the Mediterranean, Australia has a new steering role in investigating the world’s underwater past.

Flinders University will hold the prestigious Chair of the UNESCO UNITWIN Network for Underwater Archaeology for the next three years.

The role will create partnerships and exchanges between international underwater archaeology programs that will open up a wide range of opportunities for field research to Australian students, and shed new light on the civilisations and societies of the past.

It comes as Flinders prepares to unveil a suite of new research and lab space including a state-of-the-art Digital Archaeology Laboratory.

The Chair role will shift from Selçuk University (Turkey) to Flinders on September 1, with Dr Wendy van Duivenvoorde and Dr Jonathan Benjamin to serve jointly as co-representatives of the Flinders Maritime Archaeology Program.

“This position as Chair of the UNITWIN network presents remarkable exchange opportunities, bringing the world’s leading researchers to our shorelines, and creating global mobility for our researchers in return,” Dr van Duivenvoorde says.

“Research will include marine and freshwater sites, from ancient harbours to naval battlefields and from early watercraft to submerged landscapes. It is a great time to study maritime archaeology at Flinders.”

Associate Professor Mark Staniforth, who represented Flinders in the establishment of UNITWIN, says being elected as Chair puts Flinders at the centre of a dynamic network of 21 institutions from five continents.

“Maritime Archaeology is by its nature an international discipline. In Australia we have historic shipwrecks which were originally built and sailed for foreign nations before they ended up here,” Professor Staniforth says.

“The first UNITWIN network workshop in Australia will focus on 3D site recording, digitisation and reconsruction in underwater archaeology. Network partners and students will be able to use the newly outfitted state-of-the-art Digital Archaeology facility currently under construction.”

Archaeology students diving on the Royal Charlotte off Queensland small
Archaeology students dive on the wreck of the Royal Charlotte off the Queensland coast

Dr Jonathan Benjamin says the UNESCO UNITWIN network will host its first-ever Australian meeting and workshop in Adelaide in November 2016, to coincide with the IKUWA6 (the International Congress on Underwater Archaeology) in Fremantle.

“It is a great responsibility to lead a group of world class scholars, students and underwater archaeologists from around the world. We look forward to welcoming them to Australia in 2016.

“It will be a great experience for our students and a platform to showcase our program as a centre of excellence in underwater archaeology.”

A formal launch of the Flinders University Chair of the UNESCO UNITWIN Network on Underwater Archaeology will be held at Flinders Victoria Square (level 1) on August 27 at 6pm.

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