Ancient Shipwreck at Godavaya, Sri Lanka – Institute of Nautical Archaeology https://nauticalarch.org Institute of Nautical Archaeology Thu, 07 Dec 2017 19:17:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 2014 Field Season Draws to a Close https://nauticalarch.org/2014-field-season-draws-to-a-close/ Tue, 01 Jul 2014 17:38:52 +0000 http://nauticalarch.org/blogs/sri-lanka/?p=399 From the very beginning of our time in Sri Lanka, we knew and expected that the arrival of the monsoon season between mid-April and mid-May would bring with it challenging weather and sea conditions that would slow the excavation. It came as no surprise, then, that the weather has hindered our work over the past few weeks, sometimes allowing us only one short dive by one dive team before conditions became untenable.

Sri Lankan divers working at the site.

Sri Lankan divers working at the site.

What was more surprising for us, however, was that all work ground to a halt when the Sri Lankan Navy notified us that they did not have the appropriate paperwork on file to allow our team access to the site. Our Sri Lankan colleagues explained to us that the necessary forms had been submitted to the Ministry of Defense, but, as sometimes happens, they were not passed on to pertinent parties, including the Navy.

Unfortunately, this clerical error led to over a week-long hiatus in our diving operations right at the end of the field season, preventing us from completing critical work, despite tireless efforts on the part of our Department of Archaeology colleagues to rectify the problem. Once it was finally sorted out and members of our team were allowed to get back into the water, there was only sufficient time remaining to pack up the excavation and secure it for the off-season, an essential part of the protection of any archaeological site.

Underwater archaeological excavations generally generate quite a bit of equipment on the bottom, and our site at Godavaya is no different: safety tanks, datum towers, grid lines, storage bins and baskets, mapping equipment, and excavation supplies all were on the seabed and needed to be collected, and sandbags needed to be placed on sensitive or exposed areas.

Mounting tensions and mixed signals concerning access to the site by foreign archaeologists (the same who have been diving on the site since the beginning) prompted us to leave those final underwater tasks in the capable hands of our local colleagues from the Sri Lankan Department of Archaeology while we assisted and supported their diving operations from the surface. They were required to be accompanied by divers from the Sri Lankan Navy. Our interactions with Sri Lankan Navy divers and officials in the final days of the project were overwhelmingly positive; they were pleased to assist our diving operations in any way possible, and are eager for our return in future seasons.

Glass ingots at the Godavaya site

Glass ingots at the Godavaya site

Of course, dismantling and securing the underwater site was only a small part of the packing process. We also thoroughly cleaned all of our equipment.  All of the artifacts raised over the course of the season were carefully inventoried and packed for transport to Colombo, where they will reside with the Department of Archaeology and undergo preliminary stabilization and conservation. We packed our domestic items from the excavation house and arranged for their storage for future seasons, and the container, such a pivotal part of our excavation this season, was prepared for shipment back to the US. After several days of hard work, we finished our tasks and made our way to Colombo for a couple of days of shopping and relaxing in the capitol before our long journey home.

GDA14MAY12KEM_001-medMost archaeologists will readily admit discouragement and disappointment when delays and hiatuses arise. Most will also tell you that these delays and hiatuses are a natural part of the early seasons of excavation, just like this one at Godavaya. Though we have experienced these discouragements, we are also excited and gratified by what our time under water did uncover—a wide assortment of significant finds that will help define the early maritime history of the Indian Ocean. This season we conquered the logistical issues of diving on the site and had six successful weeks of productive and safe diving, and we learned much about this important wreck. We exchanged technical knowledge and expertise with our Sri Lankan colleagues and forged working relationships that will last far into the future. As we look forward to future seasons, we will be even more prepared for the challenges that accompany the establishment of an infrastructure for underwater research in a new region of the globe.

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Blue Green Brown Black – the many colors of the Indian Ocean! https://nauticalarch.org/blue-green-brown-black-the-many-colors-of-the-indian-ocean/ Tue, 22 Apr 2014 11:52:13 +0000 http://nauticalarch.org/blogs/sri-lanka/?p=388 Author: Staci Willis

With archaeology steadily progressing on site, the team merrily enjoyed the New Year festivities and Andrew Lawler’s visit, looking forward to another productive three weeks on site.  We had moved a lot of sand and uncovered a number of interesting and informative artifacts, so it was with much excitement that we dived back in after the holiday!  Unfortunately, we passed all too quickly from a layer of blue to a layer of greenish-brown that ended in a layer of black.  Bad visibility is not an uncommon feature of underwater archaeology and often a dive is postponed for a day to let the sediment settle and the water clear.  Thus, the next day we returned ready again to resume our activities.  Alas, though the final layer of black was no longer there, the site was hidden in a heavy murk; it took several attempts for the dive team to find the site and once there the only thing that was clear was that it would not be possible to work on the site under the present conditions.

Staci swims over site prior to the holiday.  Note the blue water and clear visibility.  Photo by Susannah H. Snowden.

Staci swims over site prior to the holiday. Note the blue water and clear visibility. Photo by Susannah H. Snowden.

Staci, Amalka, and Laura search for the site after the holiday.  Can’t see Laura?  Follow the orange line to the faint blur in the center… that’s Laura!  Photo by Susannah H. Snowden.

Staci, Amalka, and Laura search for the site after the holiday. Can’t see Laura? Follow the orange line to the faint blur in the center… that’s Laura! Photo by Susannah H. Snowden.

By the third straight day of un-workable visibility, we started to wonder if we would ever see the site again!  Fortunately for us, Karen’s birthday just happened to coincide with the third bad day, so we at least had something to celebrate that evening even if we were not able to dive.  And in Sri Lanka, we celebrate with not one, but TWO cakes!  Both were delicious, and both were accompanied with a song, candles, and the traditional wish.  Though she would not tell us what she wished for, we soon discovered that Karen had put her birthday magic to good use… the next day we made both morning and afternoon dives on site, finally able to see well enough to work!

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Karen with her second birthday cake. Those candles are responsible for our afternoon dive! Photo by Angie Sunkur.

While the stroke of good fortune with the visibility did not last long, we fortuitously have several more upcoming birthdays on the team.  So with a little more luck, and a few more birthday cakes, archaeology continues.

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Holidays and an Important Visitor https://nauticalarch.org/holidays-and-an-important-visitor/ Sun, 20 Apr 2014 11:33:27 +0000 http://nauticalarch.org/blogs/sri-lanka/?p=372 Author: Laura White

This week on site has been an interesting one for a number of reasons! First, our team experienced some sort of epidemic, with four members down with fevers and flu-like symptoms;  likely an unfortunate side effect of having so many people sharing a relatively small living space! Luckily, with the advice of INA medical correspondent Matthew Partrick we have been able to keep everyone hydrated and resting, and our team is well on the way to recovery.

Perhaps aiding in recovery was the fact that this week marked an important local holiday: the Sinhalese and Tamil New Year, Aluth Avurudda. The holiday marks the end of the harvest and spring and is based on the astrological calendar. The Sri Lankan members of the team returned to their homes to participate in traditional activities and spend time with their families and friends. The foreign team members stayed on site to rest and relax, catch up on paperwork, and process artifacts.

While this was going on we also hosted an important visitor to the site: Andrew Lawler. Andrew is a writer for Archaeology Magazine and Science Magazine, and he is experiencing his first taste of underwater archaeology with his trip to the Godavaya project! In spite of the holiday, our Sri Lankan colleagues kindly consented to dive on the morning of the 13th so that we could show Andrew the ropes, and he got to see the team raise several exciting artifacts. However, we also got in on the celebration during the following days, receiving TONS of well-wishes and traditional sweets from our neighbors and friends here, including Kirbath, which is a type of moist rice cake made with milk, and Kevum and Kokis, various oil-fried sweet pastries. Throughout the day, “poppers” (noisemakers) went off marking the beginning of “auspicious times” to complete various activities; each one sounded like a cannon going off!

Our impressive spread of traditional pastries! Photo by Angie Sunkur.

Our impressive spread of traditional pastries! Photo by Angie Sunkur.

During the holiday, the Director General of the Department of Archaeology here in Sri Lanka arranged for us to have the opportunity to take Andrew to the Maritime Archaeology Museum in Galle. The museum at Galle is beautifully designed and executed and housed in a restored Dutch fort, and it exhibits aspects of Sri Lanka’s maritime cultural past from the Neolithic to the present day.

The foreign team (and Andrew) team at the Maritime Museum, along with the kind members of the Museum Staff who opened the museum, even on their holiday. Photo by Laura White.

The foreign team (and Andrew) at the Maritime Museum, along with the kind members of the Museum Staff who opened the museum, even on their holiday. Photo by Laura White.

The museum truly is a tribute to maritime archaeological pursuits in Sri Lanka, and contains remarkable ship models, preserved traditional vessels, exhibitions of trade goods coming to and from Sri Lanka, an impressive gallery dedicated to the Avondster, a VOC ship that was lost in Galle harbor in the late 17th century, and even many artifacts from the Godavaya shipwreck which were raised in previous seasons.

Andrew examines a traditional local fishing canoe, one of several remarkable antique vessels preserved at the museum. Photo by Karen Martindale.

Andrew examines a traditional local fishing canoe, one of several remarkable antique vessels preserved at the museum. Photo by Karen Martindale.

Staci and Andrew study a complete vessel that was raised from the Godavaya shipwreck site on a previous season.

Staci and Andrew study a complete vessel that was raised from the Godavaya shipwreck site on a previous season. Photo by Karen Martindale.

After the museum visit, we headed home, hoping to stop for a bit of sustenance. Because of the holiday most of the restaurants in Sri Lanka were closed, but upon the recommendation of one of the gentlemen who opened the museum for us, we stopped at a forbidding gate on the side of the road, only to discover this stunning vista just inside:

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Not bad for a chance find! Photo by Karen Martindale.

Our Sri Lankan colleagues kindly consented to cut short their holiday time so we can return to work on site, but celebrations were not behind us, as the end of the New Year’s celebration fell on Easter Sunday!

Angie, our indefatigable cook, surprised us at the end of a diving day with hot cross buns (a traditional easter sweet in England and Australia, where she was raised) and also dyed eggs! The Easter bunny also brought us fun-sized Snickers bars after our lunch, truly a delicacy!

Angie, our indefatigable cook, surprised us at the end of a diving day with hot cross buns (a traditional Easter sweet in England and Australia, where she was raised) and also dyed eggs! The Easter bunny also brought us fun-sized Snickers bars after our lunch, truly a delicacy! Photo by Karen Martindale.

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Moving Sand https://nauticalarch.org/moving-sand/ Sun, 13 Apr 2014 09:31:11 +0000 http://nauticalarch.org/blogs/sri-lanka/?p=364 Author: Staci Willis

Working under water always presents challenges to the archaeologist accustomed to working on land, the limited time on site being one of the biggest challenges.  While diving Nitrox has allowed us to drastically increase our bottom times (see earlier post), each diver still only gets 47 minutes per day to work in their square if we have good weather.  This requires the underwater archaeologist to work quickly and efficiently while still maintaining good archaeological practice.

Beyond time limitations, the underwater archaeologist also must face unique obstacles dependent upon the sea conditions of individual sites.  For us, excavating in the Indian Ocean, one of these unique obstacles is the constant presence of surge on the seabed.  Trying to excavate in one’s square is often like being submerged in a wave pool at a water park, with the surge moving you several meters back and forth across the bottom.  Sometimes, this can be used to the excavator’s advantage.  While cleaning up a portion of my square, I was able to place a basket several feet away from the open excavation area and use the surge to transport me back and forth between the excavation zone and the basket, picking up rocks and dropping them in with each push and pull.  However, quite regularly the archaeologist needs to remain in one place to work on a specific task or area. There are a few ways to accomplish this in surge – if you are lucky enough to have a large rock in or near your excavation area, you can anchor onto this with one hand and excavate with the other; if you have no anchor, then it is often necessary to find a safe location devoid of artifact debris and anchor with your knees on the seabed so that you can work in one location.  The most important thing, however, is to keep your fins up!  Fins are often the most destructive force on an archaeological site.

At most INA excavations, fins are absolutely banned on site.  Divers typically remove them on their descent and clip them off or store them somewhere near site.  However, the persistent surge on the bottom and often intense currents in the water column and on the surface make the removal of fins on the Godavaya shipwreck site too dangerous; INA has an impeccable safety record that we intend to continue in Sri Lanka!

Laura and Staci excavate and sketch in their respective grid squares.  Photo by Susannah H. Snowden.

Laura and Staci excavate and sketch in their respective grid squares. Photo by Susannah H. Snowden.

Despite the ups and downs of Mother Nature, we have been able to make steady archaeological progress on site.  Each of the archaeologists on the team has been assigned a specific square of the grid to excavate.  The non-archaeological divers on the team have been trained as our mapping team.  And over the past two weeks, we have removed the surface layer from the excavation grid and started plotting the position of artifacts on the site plan.  In the past week, several more interesting artifacts have come to light after over 2000 years on the seabed.  Two of the more striking finds include a small blue glass disc and a metal (likely bronze) spearhead!

The blue glass disc found by Sanath. Photo by Susannah H. Snowden.

The blue glass disc found by Sanath. Photo by Susannah H. Snowden.

The spearhead found by Palitha.  Photo by Susannah H. Snowden.

The spearhead found by Palitha. Photo by Susannah H. Snowden.

Refined glass ingots have been recovered previously from the site, but this is our first glass artifact that appears in a finished state.  Weapons aboard ships is of course not uncommon, but the presence of a spearhead will certainly add to our understanding and interpretation of this ancient ship’s purpose and cargo.  Each day on site, as we continue to move sand and pull back layers of time, we uncover a little more about this incredible ship and the trade relationships of the ancient Indian Ocean.

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Understanding and Capturing Limits https://nauticalarch.org/understanding-and-capturing-limits/ Sun, 06 Apr 2014 09:16:35 +0000 http://nauticalarch.org/blogs/sri-lanka/?p=359 Author: Staci Willis

Part of the first order of business for the archaeological work on site this season was to determine the full extent of the site and understand how far archaeological material extends.  So we sent teams of archaeologists in each of the four cardinal directions, starting from the main 18-meter-long pile of concreted iron and copper ingots.  Each team created a shallow trench about half a meter wide, removing just a small amount of sand, exposing the archaeological material just beneath the surface, and then continuing out until they ran out of artifacts.  Our efforts revealed an especially rich concentration of artifacts to the south and east of the large concretion mound.  Here team members uncovered at least four stone querns, several cylindrical grinding stones, and a wide array of ceramic vessels — everything from large storage jars over a meter tall, to intact round bowls, and even a conical flask the likes of which our Sri Lankan colleagues have never seen.  Armed with this knowledge, we can now extend our excavation area in a guided and methodical manner.

One of the cylindrical grinding stones discovered while searching for the extent of the site to the east of the mound of ingots.  Photo by Susannah H. Snowden.

One of the cylindrical grinding stones discovered while searching for the extent of the site to the east of the mound of ingots. Photo by Susannah H. Snowden.

Of course, as archaeologists, the most important step in this process of determining the extent of the site is creating a detailed record of our work.  Thus, following right behind the teams exploring shallow trenches in each direction, was a team of photographers carefully capturing the newly exposed areas digitally.  These divers hover over the site, snap a photo, move forward a few meters, snap a photo, etc.  All while maintaining their buoyancy at the same depth from shot to shot.  These photos are then stitched together in Photoshop to create a photomosaic of the site.

A single photo of a portion of the site for the mosaic.  Note the corner of the excavation grid at the top of the picture.  Photo by Megan Collier.

A single photo of a portion of the site for the mosaic. Note the corner of the excavation grid at the top of the picture. Photo by Megan Collier.

A single photo such as this is stitched together into a row, comprising one full length of the site.

Several single shots stitched together into a row. Note the effect of the surge on the diver.  Photo by Megan Collier.

Several single shots stitched together into a row. Note the effect of the surge on the diver. Photo by Megan Collier.

And then the rows are stitched together into the general site overview.  Once the photomosaic of the Godavaya shipwreck site is complete, it will be used in dive meetings to help orient our discussions of the next day’s work areas and in future planning sessions as we adapt our overall excavation plan for the site.

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Nitrox and HEAVY tanks: a technical update https://nauticalarch.org/nitrox-and-heavy-tanks-a-technical-update/ Thu, 03 Apr 2014 09:41:51 +0000 http://nauticalarch.org/blogs/sri-lanka/?p=350 Author: Laura White

One of the greatest challenges of being an underwater archaeologist is the limited time that one can spend on site. This limitation exists for two reasons: first, practically speaking, there is a limit to how much air a diver can bring with him to site in scuba tanks. Second, breathing air under pressure causes a buildup of dissolved nitrogen in the bloodstream, and if a diver stays at depth too long or ascends too quickly, they are at risk of bringing nitrogen bubbles rapidly out of solution in the tissues of the body, resulting in a dangerous condition called Decompression Sickness (DCS) or “the bends.” To combat DCS on long dives, divers are required to do decompression stops, waiting at specified depths for nitrogen to be released from the bloodstream before ascending. To speed this process, decompression is often conducted on pure oxygen, and indeed, INA pioneered the use of oxygen decompression on archaeological dives.

Last year on site, we experienced tremendous challenges due to both of these limitations! Traditionally speaking, INA uses large tanks or double tanks on deep dives like this to allow for longer bottom times, and also uses oxygen decompression after air dives to allow divers to stay at depth longer and still have short, safe, decompression times. Unfortunately for us here in Sri Lanka, the only tanks available for our use were standard aluminum cylinders with capacities of 80 cubic feet, and the lurching seas and difficulties mooring made it impossible to run the types of surface-supplied oxygen decompression that we always had in the past.

Luckily, the tides have turned this year in our favor, both literally and figuratively! First, this year we brought with us in our shipping container large, 121- and 108- cubic foot diving cylinders that were purchased in Texas. Knowing the difficulties we face with high surface current, we are also filling these cylinders with 32% Enriched Air Nitrox, and running a dive schedule that allows us longer dives with short nitrox decompression stops.

Brand new steel cylinders. Each is larger both in height and in breadth than a standard Aluminum-80. An Aluminum 80 weighs about 32 pounds when empty, a Steel-108 weighs about 46 pounds when empty, and a Steel-121 weights about 50 pounds when empty. We are all growing lots of muscle moving these around! Photo by Laura White.

Brand new steel cylinders. Each is larger both in height and in breadth than a standard Aluminum-80. An Aluminum-80 weighs about 32 pounds when empty, a Steel-108 weighs about 46 pounds when empty, and a Steel-121 weights about 50 pounds when empty. We are all growing lots of muscle moving these around! Photo by Laura White.

Enriched Air Nitrox is a breathing gas that is composed of the same components as normal air, but with a higher percentage of oxygen than normal air. In this case, our breathing mixture contains 32% of oxygen, rather than the standard 21% (more or less) found in atmospheric air. The increased oxygen in the mix means that we are able to stay on the bottom longer with less risk of DCS! Enriched Air Nitrox has been used for decades as a safe breathing gas to be used at moderate depths: it increases bottom time, decreases surface intervals, and generally allows divers to feel more energetic and fit after a dive.

Our humble, (but effective!) continuous blending system for making Nitrox. An air intake (clear hose) and oxygen intake (thin blue hose leading from the O2 cylinder) attach to the top of a “Nitrox Stick,” a steel tube fitted with filters and with baffles throughout its length to mix the two gasses. At the bottom of the Nitrox Stick, an oxygen analyzer is attached, which reads the percentage of oxygen in the mixture before the gas it goes to the compressor and is put into tanks (clear tube at bottom). Photo by Laura White.

Our humble, (but effective!) continuous blending system for making Nitrox. An air intake (clear hose) and oxygen intake (thin blue hose leading from the O2 cylinder) attach to the top of a “Nitrox Stick,” a steel tube fitted with filters and with baffles throughout its length to mix the two gasses. At the bottom of the Nitrox Stick, an oxygen analyzer is attached, which reads the percentage of oxygen in the mixture before the gas it goes to the compressor and is put into tanks via the clear tube at bottom. Photo by Laura White.

Of course, the use of Nitrox is not without its risks: breathing oxygen at high concentrations at depth can cause a dangerous and deadly condition called oxygen toxicity. As one goes deeper and deeper, the concentration of oxygen can be safely inspired decreases: for example, pure oxygen is not recommended to be inspired deeper than about 25 feet, 36% oxygen mixtures are recommended to be used only until 95 feet, and 32% oxygen mixtures, like the one we are breathing now, are only recommended to be used as deep as 110 feet.

Amalka checks the percentage of oxygen in a tank. Photo by Laura White.

Amalka checks the percentage of oxygen in a tank. Photo by Laura White.

This means that here on site, we must be very careful to be certain of the air that we breathe!  As such, we have set up a meticulous set of procedures for filling, checking, marking, recording, and re-checking tanks, so that each diver knows exactly the percentage of oxygen that is in their tank. All members of the team are well-versed in these procedures. We are using a continuous blending system for the creation of Nitrox breathing gas that was kindly loaned by  Buddhi De Silva, the managing director of  local commercial diving company, DeepSea Commercial Ltd.

Kalpa labels a tank immediately after filling. Each tank will also be analyzed by the diver who will use it every time it is filled.

Kalpa labels a tank immediately after filling. Each tank will also be analyzed by the diver who will use it every time it is filled. Photo by Laura White

All of this extra effort means that our morning dives, only 15 or 18 minutes last year, have been extended to a generous 27 minutes, with a 6 minute decompression. Furthermore We are also getting the opportunity to dive in the afternoon this year, for an additional 20 minutes, largely because we can dive in more marginal conditions without having to worry about the deploying the surface supplied oxygen decompression system in threatening seas.

Our increases in productivity as a result of these two changes has been staggering, and we have been inspired to see how Nitrox can be deployed effectively not only on this site in the future, but also on other INA pursuits!

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Water for Elephants https://nauticalarch.org/water-for-elephants/ Mon, 31 Mar 2014 09:53:51 +0000 http://nauticalarch.org/blogs/sri-lanka/?p=336 Guest Author: Karen Martindale, current NAP student

After another full week of diving, a few members of the team decided to use our day off to go to the Elephant Transit Home, a rehabilitation center for orphaned elephant calves, and the Udawalawe National Park. Though elephants are not hunted for sport or food, there are occasional elephant-human conflicts that cause calves to be orphaned. They are kept at the ETH until they are five years old and then released into the wild, often into Udawalawe National Park, which is right next door. Visitors are only allowed to enter the facility during feeding times, so thankfully we arrived just in time!

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Feeding time at the Elephant Transit Home. Photo by Arianna DiMucci.

 Of the 40-50 young elephants at the Elephant Transit Home, this is the only one that we are unsure could be rehabilitated, but it is amazing that the staff care so much for the elephants that they would fashion one a prosthetic limb. Photo by Megan Collier.

Of the 40-50 young elephants at the Elephant Transit Home, this is the only one that we are unsure could be rehabilitated, but it is amazing that the staff care so much for the elephants that they would fashion one a prosthetic limb. Photo by Megan Collier.

The visit to the ETH was sad, but heartening, and our spirits were lifted during the safari in Udawalawe National Park, where we saw several families of elephants, made up of all ages—even a couple of calves that were less than three months old, sticking close to their mothers.

Taking a few minutes to cool down in the lake. Photo by Arianna DiMucci.

Taking a few minutes to cool down in the lake. Photo by Arianna DiMucci.

Calf with its mother. Photo by Susannah H. Snowden.

Calf with its mother. Photo by Susannah H. Snowden.

There were a few males—generally at some distance from the females. They were hard to spot at first: initially, we were all looking for tusks, but our wonderful guide told us that only 4% of male Asian elephants have tusks, so our sighting of this young male was actually quite rare.

A young bull with tusks, a rarity for Asian elephants. Photo by Megan Collier.

A young bull with tusks, a rarity for Asian elephants. Photo by Megan Collier.

In addition to elephants, there were also a variety of water birds (though not nearly so many as at Bundala), a couple of crocodiles, a very happy (and acrobatic) group of toque macaques, and, my favorite sighting, a herd of spotted deer that could just barely be seen through the bushes.

An egret that was determined to get his dinner down in one piece—and yes, he did! Photo by Karen Martindale.

An egret that was determined to get his dinner down in one piece—and yes, he did! Photo by Karen Martindale.

Spotted deer. Photo by Karen Martindale.

Spotted deer. Photo by Karen Martindale.

It was a wonderful afternoon that left us refreshed for another full week of diving!

The end of our sunset safari. Photo by Susannah H. Snowden.

The end of our sunset safari. Photo by Susannah H. Snowden.

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Excavation Begins! https://nauticalarch.org/excavation-begins/ Sat, 29 Mar 2014 10:28:58 +0000 http://nauticalarch.org/blogs/sri-lanka/?p=332 Author: Staci Willis

With moorings, a grid, and datum points in place, the team has now started to excavate.  Considering the rich material littering the surface of the site, we are excited to see what the next few weeks will bring to light from the past.  Fortunately, the upcoming week’s forecast calls for calm seas.  With a lot of hard work and a bit of luck with the weather, we should have exciting new finds to report soon!

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Site Prep https://nauticalarch.org/site-prep/ Fri, 28 Mar 2014 16:35:18 +0000 http://nauticalarch.org/blogs/sri-lanka/?p=309 Author: Staci Willis

With the moorings for the Sea Horse completed, the team has spent the past week prepping the site for archaeological work.  In order to map the various features and artifacts of the site, we must first create a network of datum points, which are essentially fixed points in the space surrounding the site.   We will measure excavated artifacts to this network of fixed points, allowing us to pinpoint the location of these archaeological treasures.  In archaeology, location is key to interpretation!

Karen Martindale ascends over the site.  Photo by Susannah H. Snowden.

Karen ascends over the site. Photo by Susannah H. Snowden.

Last year we hammered thick stakes into the rocks scattered throughout the site; however most of these stakes were only loosely anchored in the rock and would move if touched.  Not a usable datum point for archaeologists!  So, this year we decided to create towers that we could weigh down on the sea bed in prime locations to map the area of the site to be excavated this season; these type of towers have been used on several previous INA excavations.  I had experience moving, weighing down, and measuring such towers during the final season of excavation at El Bajo de la Campana shipwreck in Spain, so I thought I knew what to expect when repeating these tasks on the Godvaya site.  Once again, the Indian Ocean proved itself a more formidable opponent than the Mediterranean.  The towers themselves were considerably heavier than the ones we used in Spain and the current considerably stronger.  At the Bajo, we weighed the towers down from the stock pile of rocks removed from the site during prep work; at Godavaya, we are using buckets of concrete and sandbags.  At the Bajo, Laura and I were able to easily float above the towers and stretch tape across the entire site with virtually no current interfering; at Godavaya we often have to anchor ourselves against the weighted datum towers and forego some measurements when the current is so strong the meter tape bends between points like a clothesline in a blustering wind.  Despite these challenges, our network of fixed points is steadily being measured on the seabed and replicated on the computer.

Staci positions a datum tower over the concrete bucket that will be used to weigh it down.  Photo by Susannah H. Snowden.

Staci positions a datum tower over the concrete bucket that will be used to weigh it down. Photo by Susannah H. Snowden.

Megan Collier labels each datum tower with a unique letter.  Photo by Susannah Snowden.

Megan Collier labels each datum tower with a unique letter. Photo by Susannah H. Snowden.

Alongside the datum towers, the team has also been busy laying the 6 x 6 m grid that will be the foci of our intense excavation efforts this season.  This grid is an expansion of the one we laid last season; our previous exploratory efforts uncovered several layers of artifacts waiting just beneath the surface.  This season we hope to determine just how deep the archaeological material goes.  Again, our friend the local welder has come through in a pinch.  When we needed 20 sharpened stakes for the grid by the next morning’s dive, the welder’s team, sparks flying, sliced and diced metal rods into shape for us in record time.

Sparks fly as the team at the welder’s shop, with our friend the welder in the forefront, quickly makes the grid stakes. Photo by Staci Willis.

Sparks fly as the team at the welder’s shop, with our friend the welder in the forefront, quickly makes the grid stakes. Photo by Staci Willis.

The grid just to the south of the main concretion mound on site.  Staci Willis records a measurement taken from one of the datum towers.  Photo by Susannah Snowden.

The grid just to the south of the main concretion mound on site. Staci records a measurement taken from one of the datum towers. Photo by Susannah H. Snowden.

Little by little the wreck site is transformed from a scatter of ancient debris into an operating archaeological site.  With each step, we are one day closer to excavation and new discoveries.

Karen, Zafer, and Arianna on the Sea Horse, heading out for a morning dive.  Photo by Susannah Snowden.

Karen, Zafer, and Arianna on the Sea Horse, heading out for a morning dive. Photo by Susannah H. Snowden.

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Kataragama https://nauticalarch.org/kataragama/ Sun, 23 Mar 2014 06:07:31 +0000 http://nauticalarch.org/blogs/sri-lanka/?p=292 Guest Author: Megan Collier, recent NAP graduate

On our day off from diving, some of the team members went to visit one of the most famous pilgrimage spots in Sri Lanka, the temple complex at Kataragama.  In July and August, this little town is filled with thousands of people making their way to the religious site, most of whom come on foot.  Hindu devotees travel from as far away as Jaffna, a city at the northern tip of the island, for this very important festival which can feature elephant parades, meditation, and fire walking.

Elephants carved into the entryway of the Buddhist shrine.  Photo by Susannah Snowden.

Elephants carved into the entryway of the Buddhist shrine. Photo by Susannah Snowden.

 

The Buddhist Stupa of Kataragama. Photo by Susannah Snowden.

The Buddhist Stupa of Kataragama. Photo by Susannah Snowden.

It was considerably more quiet when we were there, though no less impressive.  The sacred precinct has Hindu temples and a Buddhist stupa as well as a mosque.  The large amount of religious diversity in one shared space is one of the more striking features of this site.  As we walked around the stupa watching the orange clad monks leading meditations we could see the brightly painted Hindu temple situated next to it with the minarets of the mosque rising in the background.

The entryway to the very colorful Hindu temple.  Photo by Megan Collier.

The entryway to the very colorful Hindu temple. Photo by Megan Collier.

Hindu religious items used in the procession. Photo by Megan Collier.

Hindu religious items used in the procession. Photo by Megan Collier.

Making our way down the broad main boulevard, we saw monkeys and cows as well as roosters roaming free.  In the Hindu precinct we watched a procession with drummers and dancers wind their way to the different shrines to pray to each deity. Two of the team members were even convinced to join in the dancing!  In the mosque courtyard an old man showed us the sacred spots of the area which included three palm trees that grew from one seed and a tree that leaked sap that smelled like vanilla.

A monkey eating a lemon. Photo by Susannah Snowden.

A monkey eating a lemon. Photo by Susannah Snowden.

A dancer in the Hindu procession.  Photo by Susannah Snowden.

A dancer in the Hindu procession. Photo by Susannah Snowden.

From there we crossed the Menik Ganga, the sacred river that flows through the complex, where people were performing ablutions before they went to worship.  On the other side of the river a considerably scaled back market offered fruits and meditation beads for sale.  It was very apparent from the number of closed shops just how busy this area is during the festival.  The Kataragama temple complex is an excellent example of how the different religions in the area have been melded together in a way that is distinctly Sri Lankan.

Fruits for sale as offerings in the Kataragama market.  Photo by Angie Sunker.

Fruits for sale as offerings in the Kataragama market. Photo by Angie Mitchell Sunker.

 

 

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