Archaeology studies human cultures through the analysis of their historical traces to explain the origin and development of civilizations.
Underwater archaeology is a sub-discipline, which studies submerged sites, artifacts, human remains and landscapes. It is to be seen in the larger context of maritime archaeology, which studies human relations with oceans, lakes and rivers and is complemented by nautical archaeology, which studies vessel construction and use.
Archaeological sites located under water are an important source of historic information. Often they contain, due to the lack of oxygen, material that is lost on comparable sites on dry land.
The surveying, excavation and preservation of sites are important phases of the process of underwater archaeological research.
A variety of archaeological sciences are used in underwater archaeology:
Archaeological sites are very fragile and sensitive to intrusion. Even an intervention that opens a site for research purposes “damages” the archaeological information contained therein, as the site is not undisturbed any more. It is therefore important that information contained therein is carefully recorded.
The 2001 Convention regulates therefore in its Annex, containing the “Rules concerning activities directed at underwater cultural heritage”, that only qualified and properly trained persons should be permitted to intervene on submerged sites.