Maritime Archaeology Ltd Live blog


Solving the mystery-is this the Santa Lucia wrecked in 1567?

Yarmouth Roads is one of only 49 Protected Wrecks around the coast of England. It is designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 

The site is thought to encompass the remains of a late 16th century Spanish merchant carrack, possibly the Santa Lucia, which is recorded as lost in 1567 carrying wool to Flanders. However, there are some queries over whether the pottery assemblage supports this identification. A close investigation of the ship’s timbers, the first time such an initiative has taken place on this site, may provide the information necessary to reach a conclusion on date, provenance, and identification.

Maritime Archaeology Ltd, is now working together with the ForSEAdiscovery: Forest Resources for Iberian Empires: Ecology and Globalization in the Age of Discovery project, a Marie Curie Initial Training Network funded through the European Union Framework 7 program to investigate the timbers in detail.

One of the project’s aims is to reconstruct past Iberian forests and how shipbuilding from the 16th-18th centuries maybe have impacted them. Therefore, a series of known Iberian ships or shipwrecks with surviving hull timbers is necessary to provide information on the raw wood material used in ship construction.

The shipwreck at Yarmouth presents an ideal case study as a supposed Spanish ship dating to the 16th century. The ForSEAdiscovery partnership provides the opportunity to approach the site with updated research questions and support with which to answer them.
A focused on-site investigation starting now in June 2015 of this shipwreck will significantly increase understanding of the ship itself and its wider socio-economic, political, environmental, and even philosophical contexts during a period of rapid and widespread change. This vessel’s selection for inclusion within this multi-partner international project serves to underscore the global research value of its remains.

More information

Yarmouth roads wreck

Forseadiscovery –

Protected wreck sites


Yarmouth archaeology

Planking clearly visible on the Yarmouth Roads wreck


Maritime archaeology Research services.

Investigation of marine cultural heritage is a developing field. Maritime Archaeology Ltd draws on over 22 years of experience gained in, research and development of approaches and techniques for the investigation, monitoring and management of archaeology under water and in the inter tidal zone.

  • Shipwreck inspection, survey, sampling, excavation and monitoring.
  • From single finds to excavation archives we can undertake or arrange artefact, sample and deposit assessment, analysis and dating.
  • Shore line and coastal management studies.
  • Utilising heritage data and information to feed into broader marine environmental studies, often involving inter-agency and partnership working and the management of large digital data sets.
  • Services for the heritage sector for the development of digital data standards and content and the analysis of information for aspects of marine spatial planning and management.



Mesolithic site being washed away in the tide

Maritime Archaeology Ltd  is currently working on a Mesolithic underwater site in the Solent

The site of Bouldnor Cliff lies 11 m underwater off the north coast of the Isle of Wight. It sits within a submerged forest that has come to light after being pressure wrapped in silt and preserved for 8,000 years. Today, strong currents are taking the silt away to reveal the lost secrets of people that lived when Europe was segregated by the North Sea.

Archaeological discoveries have been made by ongoing observation and sampling of the eroding landscape. The finds are remarkable. Many of the recovered items are new to archaeology, giving us unique insights into the lives of our ancestors. They include the oldest string in the UK, advanced wood working technologies and the discovery of wheat 2,000 years before it officially arrived in Britain.

The erosion creates great opportunities to discover more but it also destroys everything: unless it is rescued. This week the maritime archaeologists are focusing on recording and sampling the site to increase their understanding of the submerged site and how to best protect it, before its too late.

More information: 

Bouldnor Cliff 

The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory

SPLASHCOS – Submerged Prehistoric Archaeology and Landscapes of the Continental Shelf


maritime archaeology

Maritime archaeologist diving on a Mesolithic site in the Solent


Maritime Archaeology Diving services

Our Health and Safety Executive (HSE) compliant diving team can provide a range of archaeological diving services to meet your needs, including;

  • Anomaly inspection
  • Excavation
  • Underwater photography
  • Media footage

Sustainable Walney Extension Offshore Wind Farm


DONG Energy

Walney Extension OWF

Archaeological Monitoring Assessment and geoservices

The Walney Extension Offshore Wind Farm Project is a proposed development of up to 207 wind turbines located in the Irish Sea, off the Cumbria coast. When complete it will have a capacity of 750MW and be capable of powering over half a million homes.

Maritime Archaeology Ltd has undertaken several archaeological investigations as part of this project on behalf of the developing company DONG energy.

Firstly a comprehensive desk based assessment was carried out, incorporating English Heritage’s HSC (Historic Seascape Characterisation) methodology. This brought together information from sources relating to sea level change, coastal activity, and known shipwrecks and other wreckage in the area. It used data from the UK Hydrographic Office along with various other historical, geographical and archaeological sources. This assessment makes it possible to identify areas of high archaeological potential and can also inform the other aspects of the study, such as identification of anomalies located by geophysical surveys.

As part of our clients’ need for geophysical surveying, we provided a training day for vibrocore sample collection for borehole contractors. These theoretical and practical sessions allowed contractors to operate without the need for an archaeologist to be present on board the vessel during sample collection, and thus avoided unnecessary expense in the long run.

The outputs of our archaeological and geoservices have meant the recommendation of a number of archaeological exclusion zones following the identification of high and medium potential anomalies. These recommendations will allow work to continue in a way that minimises impact on archaeological features that are beneficial to the current understanding of human activity in the area, from the Late-Pleistocene and into the Mid-Holocene.

Our work: DONG Energy Gunfleet Sands Offshore Wind Farm

Gunfleet sands wind farm

DONG Energy

Gunfleet Sands 3 Wind Farm Demonstration Project

Archaeological & geoarchaelogical services 

Maritime Archaeology Ltd has carried out a number of studies in order to inform planning and construction of the DONG Energy Gunfleet Sands Offshore Wind Farm since 2003. This wind farm is located seven kilometres off the Essex coast with a total installed capacity of 172MW, providing clean renewable electricity to approximately 125,000 households – or more than 20% of the households in Essex in the years to come.

Gunfleet Sands 1 consists of 30 turbines each of 3.6MW and Gunfleet Sands 2 consists of 18 turbines each with a capacity of 3.6MW. In 2012 we were engaged to assist with the Gunfleet Sands 3 Demonstration Project for two next generation high capacity 6MW offshore wind turbines. Through a multi-disciplinary approach, we provided a comprehensive package of archaeological advice and assessments in order to ensure that our client could carry out the development efficiently, and in a way that prevented negative impact on archaeological features.

We were selected after a rigorous tendering process to produce the Archaeological Written Scheme of Investigation (WSI) for the project, and to deliver a strategy to engage heritage curators, academics, contractors and other stakeholders.

Our archaeologists followed this by assessing and interpreting a range of archaeological and geophysical data. This included a variety of techniques, including sub-bottom, side scan and multi-beam sonar which were used alongside magnetometry to create a clear and detailed image of the seabed. During this process we identified a number of previously unknown anomalies and developed mitigation strategies including carefully considered archaeological exclusion zones.

Through geoarchaeological assessment we also advised DONG Energy of both the palaeoenvironmental and geomorphological characteristics of the survey area to identify any significant environmental deposits. Following established best practice, sub-samples were taken from boreholes and vibrocores onshore and offshore for detailed inspection. This allowed our client to put in place mitigation measures during planning and construction, and to learn as much from this important paleaoenvironmental material as possible while simultaneously helping to drive the Project forwards.

Finally, we delivered a programme of onshore and offshore watching briefs during construction with an archaeologist recording and observing both on-shore and on the survey vessel. If archaeological material was identified our experienced field team were ready to be deployed quickly for detailed assessment and to advise on any mitigation action.

Overall, throughout this project we provided a staged and pre-costed approach to this project in advance so as to ensure that the development proceeded without undue costly delay. Furthermore, the results of our geoarchaeological study will be available in the public domain for future study. And it is the value of this data that will offset any low-level impact of the development in the region.

Archaeological Atlas of the 2 Seas

The Archaeological Atlas of the 2 Seas Project was a European Regional Development Funded (ERDF), INTERREG IVa 2 Seas Programme conducted to enhance our understanding of our European submerged cultural heritage.

Working with international partners ADRAMAR and DRASSM (France) and Agentschap Onroerend Erfgoed (Belgium), the aim of this project was to learn more about our maritime past by researching, discovering and recording archaeology below our common waters. Through collaborative fieldwork and field schools MA Ltd assisted in skill sharing, increasing capacity and engendering international cooperation.

find out more:

Consultants on Coastal Change


Arch-Manche Project

Diving and data services 2013

We were commissioned by the INTERREG IVa funded Arch-Manche project to provide services to demonstrate how archaeology, art and maritime coastal heritage can be used to show long-term patterns of coastal change and the impact on human settlement.

Working alongside the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS, France), the University of Ghent (Belgium)  and Deltares (the Netherlands), our HSE compliant diving team were sought for marine field investigations of archaeological sites and submerged landscapes to identify features and deposits.

Secondly, we integrated a range of geoarchaeological data sources in order to scope, design and instigate a shared project database and innovative, bespoke project viewer. This cross-channel viewer is a key output of the project, demonstrating that modern technology, archaeology and art can be used together as quantifying tools to support our understanding of coastal climate change in the waters between the UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The results will dovetail with ‘Integrated Coastal Zone Management’ by informing sustainable policies for adapting to coastal climate change while presenting an exemplar for further international cooperation.

IMAGES: Arch-Manche Project


Find out more about the project:


Our work: Aggregate Licence Areas 396 and 435


Hanson Aggregates Marine Ltd & Lafarge Tarmac Marine Ltd

Licence Areas 396 and 435

Archaeological Monitoring Assessment 2013

Maritime Archaeology Ltd was commissioned to carry out archaeological assessment on the impact of ongoing aggregate extraction on behalf of Hanson Aggregates Marine Ltd and Lafarge Tarmac Marine Ltd for their dredging region, approximately 11km to the southwest of Shoreham, Sussex. Our investigations are part of a biennial programme of monitoring to support responsible extraction, and have been in place since dredging of the area began in 2005.

The project was started thanks to Marine Space Ltd, but today all four companies work collaboratively to maximise expertise. We aim to work very closely with our clients to streamline often complex archaeological reporting to tailor it for their needs. This constant re-evaluation on this long term monitoring project has resulted in a far more accessible reporting process for the aggregate industry, removing unnecessary complexity and presenting clear information aligned to the rapidity of this sector.

We recommended at outset to our clients that specific study focus be on the use of geophysical data to identify the potential impact of dredging on the seabed, and of any archaeological material that may be present, such as shipwrecks or aircraft crash sites. At each investigation side scan sonar data is assessed and supported by multibeam bathymetry, which is then processed and examined by our experienced maritime archaeologists.

Following each assessment, features of archaeological significance are identified and compared to previous monitoring surveys. This allows us to advise our clients the extent to which archaeology may be impacted by dredging, and the significance of any impact. This information is then used to recommend mitigation measures.

At the last inspection Maritime Archaeology Ltd recommended maintaining the exclusion zone around one major feature, identified as the known shipwreck SS Concha. This was in addition to a number of smaller features of medium potential. There were no specific mitigation measures recommended for features of low potential, but it is important that they were recorded to inform future work, and to ensure that the industry can keep dredging responsibly.


A2S Contribution

MA Ltd Contribution to the A2S project:


MA Ltd was involved in the preparation and delivery of all UK fieldwork relating to the A2S project. This ranged from Geophysical survey to deep water diving and underwater excavation with a 5 man HSE dive team. As well as the fieldwork MA Ltd also provided specialist services for the processing of geophysical data.



Contributions to Activity 1 (Data Collection) – Processing of Geophysical Data



Dive contractor for Activity 3 (Fieldwork), included preparation, boat hire and 5 man HSE dive team

7th – 11th June

21st – 25th June

5th – 9th July

2nd – 6th August

22nd – 27th August


5 days geophysical Survey


Further Processing of geophysical data



Dive contractor for Activity 3 (Fieldwork), included preparation, boat hire and 4 man HSE dive team

23rd May – 27th May

27th June – 1st July

21st July – 27th July

8th August – 10th August

5th September – 9th September

22nd September – 23rd September


West Cowes Castle Discoveries

MA Ltd. archaeologists made an exciting discovery whilst working at West Cowes Castle during the winter of 2010/2011. During excavations required for an extension to the Royal Yacht Squadron building behind the original fort, sections of wall that were probably part of the original Tudor structure were discovered alongside the present driveway.

Two sections of wall were uncovered during the work. Further research identified a 1576 survey and plan of the fort which, when overlaid with modern plans, revealed that the wall is almost certainly part of the retaining wall of the dry ditch that protected the back of the castle, and was probably contemporary with the fort’s construction (from 1539-1542). The ditch ran along the entire length of the back of the castle and was approximately four metres wide. The recent excavations showed that the retaining wall, which kept the ditch from collapsing, was 2.7 metres wide at the top but may have been even wider and higher in its original state.

RYS wall feature

Over 400 artefacts were recovered during the dig – mainly ceramics, oyster shells, tiles, animal bone and clay pipes. The pipes were dated to the late 17th century, and may be contemporary with repair work that historical records suggest may have taken place in the early 1600s. Further analysis is ongoing.

Cowes Castle was part of King Henry VIII’s massive fortification programme of the 1540s. The ditch was designed to defend the castle in the event of French forces landing elsewhere on the Isle and attacking from behind. When the castle became obsolete in the 18th century, the ditch was turned into a garden and subsequently all traces of it were lost.

After discussions with the Isle of Wight Planning Archaeologist, the Royal Yacht Squadron and the architects, the remains of the wall were protected and re-turfed, and the plans for the new driveway were amended to incorporate the features. The finds recovered from the site will be archived with the Isle of Wight County Museum.

Chichester Harbour Development

MA Ltd have provided a range of services in relation to several Harbour Authorities on the south-coast, including Chichester Harbour Conservancy. These include geophysical assessment, desk-based assessment, field recording and advice on cultural resource management.