The Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources (BUAR) is the sole trustee of the Commonwealth's underwater heritage, promoting and protecting the public's interests in these resources for recreational, economic, environmental, and historical purposes. BUAR encourages the discovery and reporting, as well as the preservation and protection, of underwater archaeological resources located in the inland and coastal waters of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Educational resources available through BUAR include:
A library/resource center
- BUAR staff provide researchers with restricted access to its library collection, technical assistance, and review of site files and shipwreck database.
- This includes any of the listed public presentations. With the general overview presentation (Hidden History: Underwater Archaeology in Massachusetts), actual artifacts are displayed and students are allowed to handle non-delicate artifacts.
- Hands-on classroom mock shipwreck (photo-mosaic) mapping exercise
- Hands-on classroom mock shipwreck (photo-mosaic) excavation exercise (small group)
- Hidden History: Underwater Archaeology in Massachusetts
Every day we see Massachusetts’ maritime heritage on land, in the form of lighthouses and the homes of ship’s captains, and even as floating examples such as the U.S.S. Constitution and the Schooner Ernestina. However, there is a wealth of heritage most of us never see lying under the waters of ocean, lakes, and rivers of our state. These resources span the breadth of human occupation of Massachusetts. This presentation is an overview of our diverse submerged heritage and the state agency that protects it.
- Finding the First Minot’s Ledge Lighthouse: “I shall…die in the performance of my duty”
The historic Minot’s Ledge Lighthouse we see today about 1 mile offshore of Cohasset/Scituate was not the first attempt to place a lighthouse in those treacherous waters. The first lighthouse was a unique design lasting a little more than a year when destroyed by a Nor’easter in April 1851. In 2007, the Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources in collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard and several other partners conducted surveys to locate and identify the remnants of the original lighthouse. The lecture will describe these efforts which included remote sensing surveys technologies, remotely operated vehicle surveys, and diver investigation of the ledge. The goals of the project are to use this information to nominate the archaeological components of the site to the National Register of Historic Places, honor the fallen lighthouse keepers, and to create an underwater archaeological preserve.
- Underwater Archaeology: 17th Century Nipmuc Mishoonash in Lake Quinsigamond
Sometime in during the mid-17th century, Nipmuc Indians living along the shores of Lake Qunisigamond constructed a dugout canoe, or mishoon. Soon after, that mishoon was purposefully sunk in the lake. In 2000, nearly 400 years later, a sport diver happened upon that sunken vessel. Subsequent dives led to the discovery of two additional dugouts, or mishoonash. All three vessels appear to be purposefully sunk. Prior to this discovery, only one other dugout was archaeologically reported in Massachusetts. Since their discovery, these fragile mishoonash have been subjected to only limited in situ documentation. One has been radio-carbon dated to the 1640s. Volunteer divers with the Nipmc National Tribal Preservation Office and the Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources have been creating photo-mosaics of these mishoonash. This presentation highlights their discovery, documentation efforts, collaborative research, and future directions of this joint effort among the Nipmuc Nation, BUAR, and several other collaborators.
- The American War of Independence Battle of Chelsea Creek: Grounding the Historical Narrative through Cultural Landscape Analysis
Overshadowed by the iconic battles at Concord/Lexington and Bunker Hill, the Battle of Chelsea Creek is often overlooked as part of the siege of Boston. On May 27-28, 1775, American militia forces raided British forage and supplies on the northern shore of Boston Harbor. A running engagement with British marines and armed vessels ensued. The British forces were unsuccessful; a major result of the battle was the capture and destruction of the schooner HMS Diana. Today, the area is a heavily modified urban-industrial landscape and the associated development activities obscured, damaged, or destroyed the major landscape features of the battlefield, archeological resources associated with the battle, and any attempts to recovery the historic landscape and restore the viewshed of the battlefield. The historical narrative (primary and secondary sources), by itself, lacked precision or detail and was unreliable to delineate the battlefield and identify its component features. With funding from the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program, a geospatial and temporal assessment of the location, extent, and preservation potential of the Chelsea Creek battlefield and its associated cultural resources. By re-examining the documentary record and using GIS analysis, a digital elevation model, and a military terrain model (KOCOA), this investigation created a high resolution spatial and temporal dataset of Boston’s historical landscape during the time of the American Revolution. The visualization and geospatial analysis of landscapes and significant historical events greatly enhances the understanding of temporal and spatial interactions between these events and the physical landscape upon which they occurred.
- Drift Wood, Stone Circles, Three Canoes, a Lost Lighthouse and a Piano: Stories of Collaboration and Engaging the Public
When the public thinks about underwater archaeology, they generally picture intact shipwrecks, pirate treasures and mystery. I have never dealt with the first, unfortunately had to deal with the second, but constantly court the third. As archaeologists and resource stewards we are all familiar with mystery. We nearly always face that when we first approach a shipwreck site. “What ship is this? I don’t know. I need to investigate.” At various points, we turn outward to colleagues and the public to find answers. The process of addressing this question becomes a form of collaboration and means to engage the public. While Massachusetts waters hold about 3,500 shipwrecks, we have a diverse range of submerged cultural resources encompassing now submerged Native American sites, maritime industry structures, bridges, and aircraft. This group of non-shipwreck resources seems to capture the public’s attention and provide opportunities to connect with the public and provide appropriate access to these non-renewable resources. Further, it creates and fosters new levels of stewardship among the participants and elevates the public's awareness of the state's submerged heritage. The Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources depends on the active involvement of and collaboration with the public to identify, evaluate, and protect these non-renewable resources. This presentation describes the state’s diversity of archaeological resources and various ways the public is engaged in their study.
- Nature and Maritime Archaeology: Revealing Massachusetts’ Hidden History
When it comes to shipwrecks, archaeologist generally use these resources as windows to the past. However, the archaeological past can inform us about the present and where we can go in the future. For example, how can a shipwreck be used to study a severe storms? This presentation discusses the effect of changing environmental conditions on shipwrecks and other archaeological sites and how this information can be used to better understand sea level rise and global warming.
- The Shoreline Heritage Identification Partnership Strategy (SHIPS) is BUAR’s effort to engage the public to facilitate site discovery/reporting and promote responsible public involvement. Through collaborate with local historical societies and museums, BUAR endeavors to preserve the historical and archaeological properties of our coasts. A training component is currently under development. A simple reporting form (PDF, 104 KB) is available and no special skills are needed.
- For those individuals seeking more formal citizen scientist training, BUAR in partnership with the Seafaring Education and Maritime Archaeological Heritage Program (SEAMAHP) is offering training field training opportunities. These include Summer Institute on Maritime Archaeology of the North Shore at Salem State University (3 credit hour one-week field school; non-diving) and internationally recognized certificate program of the Nautical Archaeology Society.
There are currently no fees associated with the BUAR’s education programs. To schedule an educational program, contact BUAR at:
Phone: (617) 626-1014
David S. Robinson, Director
Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources
251 Causeway Street, Suite 800
Boston, MA 02114-2136