The Archaeology of Underwater Caves is an exploration of karst and marine caves around the world. Caves have drawn explorers since early forays by John Leland, King Henry VIII’s antiquary, at Bath in 1545, Helisäus Rößlin’s work at Niederbronn-les-Bains in 1593, and the discovery of Capri’s Blue Grotto in 1606. Caves were at the forefront of modern underwater exploration such as at Wookey Hole (1935-1946) and by Jacques Cousteau in 1946, as well as exciting accounts in popular books like Cousteau’s Silent World, Sheck Exley’s Caverns Measureless to Man, and Dan Lenihan’s Submerged. In 1966, George Bass, the father of nautical archaeology, wrote that underwater caves had “so far defied thoughts of proper excavation… [but] technical advances may be able to untangle the jumbled context at a future date.” In the foreword Bass announces, “that ‘future date’ has arrived.”
Underwater caves provide insight into areas critical for understanding the past, such as drowned landscapes and religions since the Paleolithic. The Roman Servius wrote, “There is no spring that is not holy.” Indeed, Solomon was anointed king of Israel at the Gihon Spring, Jason and the Argonauts cast Argo’s anchor into the Artacie Spring, Buddha was born at the Lumbini Spring, and the angel Gabriel created the Zamzam Spring for the infant Ishmael at Mecca. Archaeology in underwater caves provides unparalleled perspective. Alfred M. Tozzer described Chichén Itzá’s Sacred Cenote by saying, “There is perhaps no other single collection in New World archaeology that has offered so comprehensive a view of the aesthetic life of an ancient people.” Elsewhere, the most sensitive organic remains – brain tissue dating to 7,000 and 10,000 years ago – are preserved in underwater caves.
The volume draws on the last sixty years of research in springs, cenotes, flooded caverns, sea caves, and cave lakes with chapters written by original excavators. Authors address topics including early humans, sea level and climate change, ritual and religion, and art in many different cultures. The sites span the globe and include famous caves such as France’s Cosquer Cave, Mexico’s Hoyo Negro, and Italy’s Blue Grotto.
Many readers will find The Archaeology of Underwater Caves fascinating, from divers exploring underwater pas- sages to historians searching written passages, from archaeologists who dive in to anthropologists who stay on the surface, and those interested in early humans to those seeking an understanding of ancient religions. As each chapter explores, underwater caves are rare sites providing incredible perspective on ancient cultures.
The book is published by Highfield Press (Southampton) and distributed by Oxbow. An ebook will be available in the future.