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A Puzzle from the Deep: The Mystery of the Empty 19th Century Shipwrecks in the Gulf of Mexico

Author(s): Alicia Caporaso

Year: 2015

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An intriguing mystery has presented itself in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM): the discovery of several 19th century shipwrecks apparently bare of portable artifacts. Improved technology has, in the past decade, allowed for cheaper and safer production of oil in the deep waters of the GOM. Under the direction of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, companies are required to conduct high-resolution geophysical surveys of their leases in advance of bottom disturbance. This has resulted in the discovery of several well-preserved deep-water shipwrecks dating from the colonial period through WWII. Remotely Operated Vehicle investigations have revealed that many of these vessels retain expensive features such as copper sheathing or propulsion equipment, yet are seemingly devoid of small objects such as bottles and ceramics. This presentation explores potential explanations for the presence of these empty shipwrecks and attempts to place them within the greater archaeological landscape of the GOM.

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A Puzzle from the Deep: The Mystery of the Empty 19th Century Shipwrecks in the Gulf of Mexico. Alicia Caporaso. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Seattle, Washington. 2015 ( tDAR id: 434002)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 312

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America