The Scripps Institution of Oceanography announced Thursday it has opened a new center to conduct fieldwork at key underwater and coastal archaeological sites around the world.

The Center for Marine Archaeology will study the influence of marine environments on human cultures.

Mario Borrero, a UCSD graduate student, excavating a lassic Maya palace in Belize. Courtesy Scripps Institution of Archaeology

“For more than a century, Scripps Oceanography has been at the forefront of scientific exploration and discovery of the ocean, and for years there has been a demonstrated interest in opening a center focused on marine archaeology,” said Scripps Director Margaret Leinen.

“The center will help advance marine archaeology as a field, and on a larger scale, will help scientists explore ways to better understand and protect our planet—a strategic initiative here at UC San Diego,” she added.

The new center will differentiate itself from other marine archaeology programs because it won’t focus on shipwrecks. Instead, it will study human societies in coastal zones and adaptation processes to climate and environmental changes.

Scripps is collaborating with UC San Diego’s Department of Anthropology to bring that field’s expertise to the research.

“With social scientists and marine scientists working together in one center, we will be studying the relationship between society and the sea from both angles, increasing our knowledge of the past for a better future.” said Carol Padden, dean of UC San Diego’s Division of Social Sciences.

Researchers with the new center will explore underwater sites through the use of traditional diving apparatuses as well as with innovative technologies such as remotely operated vehicles, seabed coring, and various sonars to help detect cultural remains on and beneath the seafloor.

Investigators have already been involved in several expeditions. Over the next two years, the center plans to launch a series of research projects in the eastern Mediterranean, southern Peru, Puerto Rico, Belize, and along the California coast.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.