Thomas Harriot College of Arts & Sciences
Department of History

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Faculty&Staff Mission Statement





"The conventional subject matter of maritime archaeology is usually thought to be 'shipwrecks,' which become archaeological sites through some kind of catastrophic event. Ships' Graveyards is highly significant because it furnishes convincing rationales for the need to understand deliberate abandonment processes--those resulting from ship owners' decisions and behaviors. Clearly, this is a landmark study of a neglected topic that is likely to stimulate exciting research for decades to come."--Michael B. Schiffer, University of Arizona

Ships' Graveyards is an explicitly theoretical study that avoids the single-site bias prevalent in most underwater archaeology research. It also eschews the traditional examination of shipwreck sites as the core component of study in this field.

Instead, Nathan Richards seeks to discover what we can learn by examining intentionally abandoned vessels and to determine what the differences are between cultural site formation processes and those created "naturally" (that is, by shipwrecks and other nautical disasters).

Using Australian waters as a case study, Richards examines over 1,500 vessels abandoned over a period of more than 200 years. In offering such a detailed focus on an underutilized archaeological resource, he provides a model for the examination of similar sites and processes in many other locations around the world.