A Methodology for Conducting Underwater Archaeological Surveys: Final Report

Report No: 91-R6

Published in 1990

About the report:

Departments of transportation and other construction agencies are required to locate and conserve cultural resources located in the area of a construction project. Although most organizations have procedures for locating cultural resources on land, the relatively new field of underwater archaeology lacks clearly defined guidelines for preconstruction surveys for structures over water. The lack of specific guidelines complicates decisions by administrators who are unfamiliar with the issues concerning submerged cultural resources, but who are, nevertheless, required to consider them in planning projects. The increase in public interest in underwater archaeology and the recent passage of legislation protecting underwater historical sites indicate that greater attention will need to be directed toward consideration of these resources in construction projects. This report reviews the relevant cultural resource legislation and it summarizes the origins, techniques, and working conditions of underwater archaeology: The differences between underwater and land archaeology are primarily related to the specialized technology required for underwater work and exploration; therefore, the methodology of underwater archaeology and the application of survey procedures are discussed in detail.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


  • Lynn H. Samuel, Daniel D. McGeehan

Last updated: December 26, 2023

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