Culture and heritage

Maritime heritage

Discover archaeology and history

Is this ancient? How do I know?

  • Everything we do becomes a part of history.
  • Sometimes the things we do or see get written down
  • Sometimes the things we build or use get covered over or buried by water!
  • Sometimes they never get recorded, or get destroyed before they become part of archaeology!

So how do we learn about these past things? - the way people lived, what they wore, how they spoke, what they built, what they did?

If these details were written down at the time, they might survive today in:

  • the form of old books
  • letters
  • diaries
  • maps
  • and personal records.

In very early times before there was paper and parchment people could record their lives and language:

  • on clay tablets
  • on hides
  • on the walls of their buildings and tombs
  • on the things they made like pots
  • in stories and dance passed down over time.

Be like a detective!

Sometimes we have to be like detectives and try to find out:

  • what these words or symbols meant
  • to understand the ancient stories and recordings

Sometimes we can only find traces:

  • of their towns
  • their houses
  • goods
  • their cemeteries
  • jewelry
  • the ships that they built

Without any words or pictures to understand these remains, archaeologists and historians must try and fill in the story.

What archaeology can tell us

Even in modern times with the thousands of preserved books, documents, other paper sources and computer records, often those related to shipping and the sea have not been kept, are damaged, were thrown out or otherwise destroyed. So even today, quite recent shipwrecks and other archaeological remains can offer our only view into the past!

Sometimes buried archaeological remains can add a great deal of information on what we thought ancient or earlier people were like, what they did, how they lived, and what they thought.

Without the pyramids to look at and their tombs to explore, we would have a very different picture of what the ancient Egyptians built and invented, than by reading their writings alone!

This is also true for shipwrecks.

  • They can provide an amazing amount of detail on:
  • the way ships were built
  • where they travelled
  • what cargoes they carried
  • about the people that worked them.
  • This is true for both ancient shipwrecks and more recent losses.

So you can see, both written records and actual remains from the past are invaluable. They can offer very detailed information, offering different perspectives, sometimes related to the same historic events and places. They allow us an incredible insight into earlier history and the people who lived it.

Discover more about earlier periods and culture!


Page last updated: 31 August 2012