Vietnam maritime archaeology project – Fighting the Silt

While the weather has taken a turn for the worst, the project steadily continues. During week one the main focus was on all the different people getting accustomed to each-other and practicing our underwater surveying skills. Week two is all about putting these skills to the test. Furthermore, this week marks the first archaeological dives for some of the recent recipients of a diving certificate.

Diving is however not the only aspect of this project. Another similarly important project is processing the different artefacts this project might turn up. An important tool in processing these artefacts is named 3D photogrammetry. This “tool” turns your photos of an object into a digital 3d rendition which can then be send to, and researched by, professors, experts, and other people from all over the world almost as if they had access to the physical object. This makes it a lot easier for experts from outside the project to give their input and quickens the research process. The teams have been practicing this rather successfully on some of the artefacts present in one of the local museums with incredibly detailed results.

3D rendering of one of the 15th/16th century artefacts in the museum
3D rendering of one of the 15th/16th century artefacts in the museum

Another important aspect is understanding the Vietnamese maritime culture and giving the trainees in this project a number of reference points that they can look out for under water. The groups where therefore sent to a number of different boatbuilding-and-repairing villages surrounding Hoi-An where they were shown the specifics of Vietnamese boats as well as how they are made and repaired. Apart from being a very interesting process, it also helped to create an understanding of Vietnamese maritime culture which will help the trainees while they are out in the field, or in this case out in the ocean.

Simultaneously to these other activities, there were of course also people diving near the wonderful Cham islands. After a rocky start this week, with weather that prevented us from diving on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday proved to be a lot more eventful. Tuesday was spent at our usual diving spot of “around the corner of Bai Lang Bay”, which still requires a lot more research. While nothing of notable interest was found the teams did manage to GPS-map the bay which will make it easier to mark/reference any future points of interest on a map and prevents us from losing track of where all our different archaeological artefacts and sites are.

Wednesday proved to be a more eventful day as we were forced to move to a different site due to the Vietnamese military having target practice at our usual location. with both of the diving teams finding numerous artefacts at the bottom of the ocean, this day soon proved to be rather successful. While after some more thorough research it seems unlikely that these artefacts are old enough to be of use for our research, it does show us that our teams do a good job and manage to pick up on any irregularities on the sea bottom.

Some of the divers on their way to the site
Some of the divers on their way to the site

Finally, while our diving teams were out scouring the bottom of the ocean, our Australian one-man snorkelling team (I’m talking to you, Ian) managed to find a possible new archaeological site with a number of, by the looks of it, very old and certainly very interesting pieces of ceramic alongside some very interesting sea-life. This surely was a site that we will have to research again in the near future and that might lead to some interesting results.

A very surprised eel
A very surprised eel
Blog 5 Vietnam 07
One of the found pottery shards underwater

Greetings from Hoi-An,


Over Maritiem Programma

Het Maritiem Programma van de Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed houdt zich bezig met het onderzoek naar scheepswrakken, bruggen, havens en andere maritieme landschappen. Het doel is om kennis, onderzoek, beleid, samenwerking en educatie op het gebied van maritiem erfgoed in Nederland een stevige basis te geven. Het programma loopt van 2012 tot en met 2015.

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