Navigate / search

Underwater Archaeology

Underwater Archaeology is one of the many hands-on workshops offered at Museum of Ontario Archaeology. This program explains how archaeologists use context and critical thinking while excavating in order to understand the site and to put together stories that artifacts may reveal about the culture of the site.

Underwater archaeology is more difficult than archaeology on land as you have to know how to dive, breathe under water, maneuver through dark or muddy waters, communicate to your team, avoid sharks (this is very important!), and write and record your findings while under water. You air tanks even limit the time you can spend excavating.


Underwater Archaeology

Each team member is given a task: documenting, holding a flashlight, removing the plastic cover, or being a general excavator.

The lights are turned off and participants explore their ‘shipwrecks’ in teams by flashlight. Each shipwreck is contained in a blue box filled with sand and covered by a plastic sheeting to simulate water.  Participants explore and uncover the artifacts left behind from their shipwreck. They must focus on drawing what they see; recording as much of what they can see before they “run out of diving time” and must resurface (AKA, the lights turn back on).

Participants then work together back at the lab to discuss their findings and answer questions that may reveal more about the shipwreck. Ie: What are the artifacts that have been found? What kind of shipwreck was it? How do all these artifacts work together? What can we conclude?

Excavations on other shipwrecks can be arranged to see if groups came to similar conclusions.  In the end, participants learn that archaeologists know what they know by analyzing the artifacts and archaeological sites for clues, much in the same way a detective would.

For more information on underwater archaeology, visit:

Save Ontario Shipwrecks or  see a video of Parks Canada Archaeologists

This blog has been based off of MOA’s Education Officer, Katie Urban’s Museum blog:


Veronica and Cristian

Our boys loved the activity. They had a good time digging for artifacts and exploring them.

Jennifer Stead

Thanks Veronica & Cristian! Glad to hear you had a great time!

Leave a comment


email* (not published)


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.