Florida Museum of Natural History

Down Like Lead
Shipwreck survivors and salvage
Crews from Havana were often sent to salvage wrecked treasure ships during the colonial period. Florida Indians also salvaged materials from early shipwrecks, and sometimes captured the survivors. By the time Florida became a United States territory in 1821, shipwreck salvage had evolved into a profitable enterprise. State contracts now regulate the salvage business, once fraught with intrigue and banditry.
Escalante Fontaneda reaching shore ESCALANTE FONTANEDA REACHING SHORE, 1549
Painting courtesy of William L. Trotter

Excavation of Bronze Age wreck in Turkey

Underwater Archaeology
The primary goal of archaeologists is to retrieve information that allows us to understand the past. Underwater archaeology has been transformed in the second half of the twentieth century, not only by new technologies, but also by a profound shift in philosophical and professional identity. Rather than focusing on the salvage and sale of treasure, professional underwater archaeologists today excavate ships to learn about the history of past cultures.
Peter Throkmorton, The Sea Remembers: Shipwrecks and Archaeology, Weidenfeld and Nicholson
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