Underwater archaeological techniques

By Tim Barber and Joe Latvis

Storyboard documenting all in situ photography.
The October 1997 field season greeted the field crew with the best underwater visibility we have ever experienced at Sloth Hole since our initial survey in 1994. Veterans of previous Sloth Hole campaigns surfaced from their initial October ’97 dive ebullient at the very real prospect of actually seeing the layout of this complex 3-dimensional site in more than the three-foot vignettes attainable under normal Aucilla River tannic conditions.

Tim Barber

Andy Hemmings excavates with fingers. Note the transparent coretube preserving stratified sediment column (left). Megafaunal bones and Aucilla Adze exposed in situ (below). Bill Gifford records three-dimensional coordinants of in situ artifacts and fossils (right).
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Close quarters close-up videography of artifacts and fossils.
Resolving to exploit these rare hydrologic conditions before one Big Bend downpour reversed our good fortune we began documenting the underwater archaeological techniques that we have developed throughout our 14 years of collective diving experience under blackwater conditions. We present this photoessay to illuminate some of these heretofore “unvisible” techniques whereby fossils, artifacts, sediments, radiocarbon samples, paleobotanical samples and bathymetric features are discovered, excavated, and spatially mapped in three dimensions, documenting in situ measurements with copious written observations, still photography and videography.

Joe Latvis