Underwater archeology in Andalusia

I think we are all familiar with the word archeology and its meaning, in fact, it is quite common to visit archaeological remains in our cities and surroundings as we are fortunate to have numerous sites both in Andalusia and in the rest of Spain.

However, when we talk about underwater acheology, things change a bit. The main reason is the difficulty to "visit" or to be able to approach the remains, since they are usually several meters below sea or river level, the environment is difficult and we need certain tools to be able to access, in addition to specific training, it is also a field that is still little known and recognized. Let's talk a bit about him.

When we think of subaquatic archeology, the first thing that probably comes to mind is a sunken ship (called a wreck), but the reality is that this field is much broader, also forming part of it stilt houses, sunken cities or watchtowers such as the existing on the Huelva coast, and fishing corrals such as those we can find on the coast of Cadiz.

This discipline is in charge of carrying out the study and interpretation of this valuable and unknown heritage. The first news of discoveries and studies of this heritage will be given in the 19th century, when divers, already with scanfandra, will be able to access them. That is why the advancement in diving will have a lot to do with the birth of this discipline, in 1943 the autonomous regulator was invented to be able to dive with a bottle. And in 1961 the first underwater excavation is planned in Turkey.

The techniques used are not very different from those on land, although they must be adapted to the aquatic environment. These interventions are organized in phases, the first of prospecting or surface recognition, the documentary study phase, excavation phase of the site and extraction for study in the laboratory.

We must not forget that archeology does not try to recover objects, but to put them in value and interpret them, the historical value of the object must always prevail over the economic one, although today there are many so-called treasure hunting companies looking for gold and silver in different seas. and oceans to profit from these extractions, so there is a pillage problem in which states sometimes have to fight through the courts to recover illegally extracted heritage.

There is also the danger of threat from constructions on the coasts and rivers or lakes, which the competent Administrations must regulate and control.

In Andalusia we can find some very interesting remains, having registered more than 900 shipwrecks on the coast. Some examples are that of 1905, when a statue of an emperor was to be found in the waters of Cádiz, today in the Museum of Cádiz, while in 1923 various bronze objects from the 10th and 9th centuries were extracted in the Huelva estuary. BC today in the National Archaeological Museum.

Also noteworthy are those of boats after the naval combat of Trafalgar in 1805 on the Cádiz coast such as the "Pecio de Camposoto", the sunken ship "Wreck of the Eagle", in Almería or the "San Pedro" in Malaga.

We have the Andalusian Underwater Archeology Center on the Costa Gaditana, in the beautiful building of the Balneario de la Palma y del Real.