The importance of underwater archaeological sites has long been recognized, and there continues to be much interest in techniques that aid in the location and description of these underwater resources. Standard geophysical tools of the underwater archaeologist include the magnetometer and side-scan sonar, and these are supplemented by traditional echosounding, photography and visual description. In shallow water these observations can be made from the water surface or by traditional diving techniques while in deep water newer technologies such as remotely-operated vehicles or submersibles are required. High-resolution multibeam swath bathymetry is a relatively new underwater remote sensing technique used to map the sea-floor surface in high resolution, and the technique is becoming increasingly valuable as a tool for recognizing and describing potential cultural resources at or near the sea bed. In addition to its use in site-specific scientific and cultural studies of the sea-bed, high-resolution multibeam data is also being routinely collected as part of hydrographic and engineering surveys in near-shore and shallow-water settings. When properly processed, these data also can reveal the presence and characteristics of potential cultural resources. In the case of engineering surveys for cables, pipelines, dredging and other underwater construction projects, an assessment of cultural resources in the project area is often required, and the multibeam data collected to aid in the design of the project should be used as one of the sources of information when evaluating cultural resources in the area.
This research was made possible through Grant MT-2210-03-NC-08 from the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT).