Nautical Archaeology Society

The Nautical Archaeology Society[1] (NAS) is a charity registered in England and Wales[2] and in Scotland[3] and is a company limited by guarantee.[4]

Nautical Archaeology Society
PredecessorCouncil for Nautical Archaeology (CNA)
Formation1972 (1972)
Legal statusCompany limited by guarantee
PurposeNautical Archaeological research, publishing, education & training
HeadquartersUnited Kingdom
  • Fort Cumberland, Fort Cumberland Road, Portsmouth PO4 9LD UK
Region served
United Kingdom
Phil Harding
Vice president
David Blackman
Formerly called
Nautical Archaeology Trust (NAT)

The charitable aims and object of the company are to further research in Nautical Archaeology and publish the results of such research and to advance education and training in the techniques pertaining to the study of Nautical Archaeology for the benefit of the public.[2]

Nautical archaeology is an archaeological sub-discipline more generally known as maritime archaeology, which encompasses the archaeology of shipwrecks, underwater archaeology and archaeology of related features.

The society's logo is derived from an ancient engraving depicting nautical activity.


Council for Nautical Archaeology

The predecessor of the Nautical Archaeology Society was the Council for Nautical Archaeology (CNA). This was formed in 1964 initially under the name the Committee for Nautical Archaeology:"so as to ensure that the many discoveries being made by divers should not go by default through lack of contact with the appropriate learned bodies and to act as a channel of communication with the many interests that were growing up in this new field of research and exploration."[5]

The inaugural meeting of the CNA was held in Joan du Plat Taylor's office at the Institute of Nautical Archaeology, at the University of London. The Council membership included the Council for British Archaeology, the British Museum, the National Maritime Museum, the Institute of Archaeology at London University, the Society for Nautical Research and the Society for Post Medieval Archaeology. The British Sub-Aqua Club was also represented on the council.[5]

It was the CNA that was responsible for establishing the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology and the Nautical Archaeology Trust in 1972, but it was also concerned with the promotion of legislation for the protection of nautical archaeological sites[5] playing a key part in what became the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973.

In 1984 the CNA was incorporated into the Council for British Archaeology as one of its research sub-committees[6][7]

The Nautical Archaeology Trust

The body that eventually became the Nautical Archaeology Society was originally incorporated and registered as a charity in 1972 under the name (The) Nautical Archaeological Trust Limited.[2][4]

The Trust was established by the Council for Nautical Archaeology as its limited liability charitable arm. As a corporate body the Trust gained the legal ability to enter into contracts and to hold assets. The Trust's objects were

"the furtherance of research into nautical archaeology and the publication of the results of such research together with the advancement of training and education in the techniques pertaining to the study of nautical archaeology for the benefit of the public"[8]

The Trust organised lectures, conferences and seminars, produced a newsletter and had a mechanism for associate membership for groups, associate individual members and subscribers. Associate membership provided a discounted purchase price for the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology.

In 1974, the then chairman of the CNA and of NAT, Professor W. F. Grimes, proposed that what was needed was a membership society[9] but this took some years to establish. The CNA and the Trust eventually agreed the form of constitution of such a Society and the inaugural meeting took place in 1981. The intention of the Society was to act as a forum for the interchange of ideas and all of the associates and subscribers of the Trust were transferred to full membership the Society. The specific intention was to further cooperation between amateurs and professionals and its impact spread beyond the UK with a third of the new membership in its first year being from outside the UK.[10] Joan du Plat Taylor was the first president.

For a few years from 1981, the activities of the charity (the Trust) were separated from the interchange between the members (the Society) although both had identical aims, but the situation was resolved by a special meeting of the Trust held on 3 July 1986 at the Science Museum.[11] At this meeting, the members of the Trust voted to change the name of the Trust to the Nautical Archaeology Society and to change the constitution (the articles of association) to reflect the change to a membership organisation.[4] The reconstituted organisation continued to have responsibility for producing the IJNA and a clause safeguarding the academic standards of the journal was added to the articles. The renamed Trust thus subsumed the role of providing a forum for the interchange of ideas and the memberships of those who had participated in the Society (many of whom were in any case the original associates and subscribers of the Trust) transferred to membership of the incorporated body.

The beginning of NAS training

With the dual advantages of a participatory membership and its status as a registered charity, in 1986 the newly reconstituted Nautical Archaeology Society ran the first events in what later became its four-part training syllabus.

NAS training and education

NAS training

The society educates and trains professional and amateur archaeologists and commercial and recreational divers.[12] The aim of the NAS training syllabus is to develop awareness, respect for and understanding of the maritime cultural heritage and to develop capability in the maritime archaeological sector by training in relevant archaeological and underwater skills as well as to develop knowledge and understanding of the technology of the past.[13]

NAS Training is supported by Cadw and Historic Scotland to provide training opportunities in Wales and Scotland respectively. The development of the NAS training curriculum was supported by English Heritage and its predecessors from 1991 to 2004.

NAS Training International

The NAS Training syllabus has been adopted by the following organisations in other countries.

  • Australia & New Zealand: Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology[14]
  • Canada, Ontario: Parks Canada Archaeological Services
  • Canada, British Columbia: Underwater Archaeological Society of British Columbia[15]
  • Canada, Ontario: Save Ontario Shipwrecks[16]
  • Germany: Deutsche Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Unterwasserarchäologie e.V.(DEGUWA)[17]
  • Ireland: Irish Underwater Archaeological Research Team (IUART)
  • Italy: REITIA[18]
  • Mexico: Intituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (INAH)
  • South Africa: South Africa Cultural History Museum
  • Switzerland: Schweizer Unterwasser Sport Verband (SUSV)[19]

NAS Conference

The annual one-day NAS conference provides a forum for a wide range of presentations on nautical archaeology.[20][21][22][23] At the event the annual Adopt-a-Wreck award is presented. The Muckelroy award will be presented for the first time at the 2009 Conference, since administration of the award was transferred to the NAS.


International Journal of Nautical Archaeology

The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology (IJNA) is published bi-annually (Print ISSN 1057-2414, online ISSN 1095-9270) for NAS by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.[24] It is a peer-reviewed academic journal but articles by amateur researchers that meet the journal's standards have been published.

IJNA aims to cover all aspects of nautical archaeological research including the seas, ships, cargos, harbours and sailors of the past.

IJNA was first published in 1972 under the founding editor Joan du Plat Taylor. Since 1980, IJNA has been edited by Ian Morrison, James Kirkman, Valerie Fenwick and Paula Martin. The current editor, Miranda Richardson, took over in 2012. Angela Croome held the position of reviews editor from the journal's foundation until 2016 when Paula Martin took over.

NAS Monograph Series

The first in the NAS monograph series is the report of the Sound of Mull Archaeological Project (SOMAP), which ran from 1994 to 2005.[25]

The NAS monograph series was edited by Gerald Grainge until 2016, who was replaced by Julian Whitewright.

NAS Handbook

The NAS Handbook provides an introduction to underwater archaeology. The material in the handbook is consistent with the teaching of the NAS Training programme.[26]


Joan du Plat Taylor Award

The Joan du Plat Taylor Award is a grant awarded annually by the Nautical Archaeology Society to support publication of nautical archaeological research. The grant was originally funded personally by Joan du Plat Taylor, the founder editor of IJNA and the first president of the Nautical Archaeology Society.


The Adopt-a-wreck scheme, run by the Nautical Archaeology Society was set up as a joint initiative with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency[27] to encourage groups and individuals to take a close interest in a maritime site, and adopt a minimum level of stewardship, monitoring how the site changes over time.[28] As well as shipwrecks, adopted sites can include harbour works and buildings with nautical connections, coastal habitations, hulks and other sea wrack of archaeological interest. The society maintains a register of all such adopted sites[29] and since 2003 has provided an annual award to the person or group that has made the most significant contribution to maritime archaeology and research through the adoption process.[30] A pilot for the Adopt-a-Wreck scheme was run on the East Indiaman Halsewell[31]

Past winners of the Adopt-a-Wreck award have included:

  • 2003. The Joint Services Dive Club and the Gibraltar Museum's Underwater Research Unit for their work on the "Inner and Outer" wreck sites at Gibraltar Harbour.[32]
  • 2004. The Queen's University Belfast Sub-Aqua Club (QUBSAC) for their investigation of the Alastor, a steel-hulled luxury motor yacht that sank in 1948[33]
  • 2005. The Weymouth LUNAR Society for their work on the Earl of Abergavenny shipwreck[34]
  • 2007. Paul Barnett for work on the hulks at Purton on the River Severn[35][36]
  • 2008. Ed Cumming and Todd Stevens for the project on the Nancy packet, the Rosevear Ledge wrecksite, published as a book.[37]
  • 2009. Alison Mayor and the Southsea Sub Aqua Club for Tanks & Bulldozers "Sleeping Centaurs" site off the south coast of England[38]
  • 2010. Southsea Sub Aqua Club for the Landing Craft LTC (A) 2428.[38]
  • 2011. Weymouth Lunar Society for the "Lost torpedoes of Weymouth and Portland".[39]

Keith Muckelroy Award

This award is made in memory of Keith Muckelroy and until 2008 was awarded as part of the British Archaeological Awards. In 2008 the administration of the award was transferred to the Nautical Archaeological Society, and the award will be presented at the 2009 conference. It is awarded for the best published work covering maritime, nautical or underwater archaeology which best reflects the pioneering ideas and scholarly standards of Keith Muckelroy.


The Gresham Ship

In 2004 the Nautical Archaeological Society took custody of the remains of an Elizabethan wreck discovered in the Princes Channel of the Thames Estuary during dredging operations by the Port of London Authority.[40] The remains represented a navigation hazard, and as they had been disturbed and damaged by the dredging operations, preservation in situ was not an option. The remains were investigated by Wessex Archaeology[41] and dendrochronology by Nigel Nayling of the University of Wales gave a construction date of soon after 1754, probably in East Anglia. The remains were transferred to Horsea Island, an estuarine lake near Portsmouth, where the brackish water should enable the timbers to stabilise while they are accessible to students for study and training purposes. The remains of the ship are being studied as part of a five-year project also involving the Port of London Authority, the Museum at Docklands, the Institute of Archaeology at University College London, Gresham College and the University of Southern Denmark. The ship has been termed the "Gresham Ship" because one of the guns recovered had the initials and emblem of Sir Thomas Gresham.[42][43][44][45]

Wreckmap Projects

The Nautical Archaeology Society manages or participates in research projects with the aims of firstly furthering research and secondly enabling novice professionals and avocational archaeologists to have opportunities to get involved in archaeological research[46] and hence develop individual experience and promote best practice in investigative techniques. Wreckmap projects focus on surveying and recording sites in a specific area. Projects have included the 'Sound of Mull Archaeological Project' (SOMAP), which ran from 1994 to 2005[25] and the "SubMAP" project, which investigated the wreck of Resurgam.[47] Wreckmap projects have also been conducted in Portland, Dorset and Teesbay (near Hartlepool).

Wreckmap Britain 2005[48] encouraged recreational divers to submit a recording form for a favourite dive anywhere in Britain. Wreckmap Britain 2006[49] was launched at the London International Dive Show (LIDS) on 1 April 2006 and has distributed 100,000 recording forms to recreational divers. The results will be added to the Shipwreck Index.[50] WreckMap Britain is conducted in partnership with the Marine Conservation Society (SeaSearch) and sponsored by Crown Estate, the BSAC Jubilee Trust and PADI through the Project AWARE Foundation.

Forton Lake

Forton Lake is a community based project to record the hulks of vessels abandoned at Forton Lake, Gosport. The field work and community training for the project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund from 2006 to 2007 and the final year of fieldwork in 2008 and publication is being supported by Crown Estate. The project is carried out jointly with the Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology.[51]

Diving Into history

The Diving into History Project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, ran from 2006 to 2008 and included outreach activities to the public and support for Adopt-a-Wreck groups. In addition community based projects were carried out, including an industrial and oral history project involving underwater survey of Stoney Cove and archive and oral history research.[52][53]

Dig, Dive and Discover

In 2006 a group of sea cadets were given the opportunity to become maritime archaeologists, learning to scuba dive, to research archives and to design web sites. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund 'Young roots' programme and was carried out in conjunction with Hartlepool library and Hartlepool Diving Club. An excavation of a wreck was carried out at Middleton Sands on Teesbay and the cadets built their own website documenting their experiences.[54]


North East England Maritime Archaeology Research Archive

The North East England Maritime Archaeology Research Archive (NEEMARA) was established in 2006 thanks to grant funding from English Heritage and from local councils. The archive contains reference material on ships, shipbuilding and archaeological reports and is housed at the offices of Hartlepool Borough Council.[55]

NAS Project and NAS Part Two Reports

Projects directly run by NAS (including Wreckmap projects) have project reports that are submitted to the appropriate Heritage Environment Record(HER). As part of NAS training, students submit a project report for part two of the NAS Certificate in Underwater and Foreshore Archaeology. Where appropriate reports are submitted to the appropriate local HER. NAS project reports and NAS Part two reports are also available to view at NAS offices in Portsmouth.[56]

The Big Anchor Project

The Big Anchor Project is an international project which is attempting to collect data on anchors to provide a research resource for the identification of anchors. Following a pilot exercise by the South West Maritime History Society and Dorset County Council, a web site enables anyone to upload pghotographs and information about anchors.[57][58]

Hartlepool Built

The Hartlepool Built project is a project to gather data on ships built in Hartlepool and on the people who sailed them. Designed as a web-based oral history type project, the project captures, and publishes on the web information on ships built in Hartlepool over the last 170 years, with photographs and other information from relatives of those whose lives were affected.[59][60]

See also


  1. Nautical Archaeology Society website
  2. Charity Commission The Nautical Archaeology Society is registered charity number 264209
  3. Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator register entry for NAS
  4. Companies house The Nautical Archaeology Society is registered at Companies House in England no. 1039270
  5. "The Council for Nautical Archaeology". International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. Academic Press, London. 5 (2): inside front cover. May 1976. 0305-7445.
  6. "The Council for Nautical Archaeology". International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. Academic Press, London. 15 (3): inside front cover. August 1986. doi:10.1111/j.1095-9270.1986.tb00574.x. 0305-7445.
  7. "A brief history of the CBA". Council for British Archaeology website. Council for British Archaeology. Retrieved 8 February 2007.
  8. "The Nautical Archaeology Trust". International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. Academic Press, London. 5 (2): inside front cover. May 1976. 0305-7445.
  9. Flinder, Alex; Margaret Rule (November 1981). "The Nautical Archaeology Society". International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. London: Academic Press. 10 (4): 273. doi:10.1111/j.1095-9270.1981.tb00040.x. 0305-7445.
  10. Morrison, Ian (November 1981). "Editorial". International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. Academic Press, London. 10 (4): 271–2. doi:10.1111/j.1095-9270.1981.tb00039.x. 0305-7445.
  11. Fenwick, Valerie (August 1986). "Editorial". International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. London: Academic Press. 15 (3): 177. doi:10.1111/j.1095-9270.1986.tb00572.x. 0305-7445.
  12. English Heritage Protected wrecks website – recommendation to use NAS training.
  13. Marc-Andre Bernier, Underwater Archaeology Service, Parks Canada, "To Dig or not to Dig" in Underwater Cultural Heritage at Risk: Managing Natural and Human Impacts, ICOMOS, 2006.
  14. "AIMA/NAS Training". Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology. Retrieved 6 November 2014.
  15. "Nautical Archaeology Society". Underwater Archaeological Society of British Columbia. Retrieved 6 November 2014.
  16. "NAS training". Save Ontario Shipwrecks. Retrieved 6 November 2014.
  17. "Training". DEGUWA. Retrieved 6 November 2014.
  18. "NAS". REITIA. Retrieved 6 November 2014.
  19. "TRAINING COURSES ARCHAEOLOGY". SUSV. Retrieved 6 November 2014.
  20. NAS Conference 2008.
  21. NAS Conference 2008 themed 'Encouraging Access'
  22. NAS Conference 2007.
  23. NAS Conference 2006.
  24. Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
  25. The Sound of Mull Archaeological Project (SOMAP) 1994–2005, Philip Robertson, with contributions by Jane Maddocks and Steve Webster. BAR British Series 453, 2007, NAS Monograph Series 1, Oxford, England: Archeopress Ltd. ISBN 978-1-4073-0177-8.
  26. Amanda Bowens (ed.), Underwater Archaeology: The NAS Guide to Principles and Practice, 2nd Edition 2009, Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4051-7591-3.
  27. Final Report on the Wreck Amnesty, Maritime and Coastguard Agency 2001, p. 27.
  28. Adopted wrecks in Dorset.
  29. Adopt-a-wreck index,
  30. "Annual Awards". Nautical Archaeology Society. Archived from the original on 2 September 2010. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
  31. Receiver of Wreck Annual Report for 2002, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, p. 13.
  32. "The 'Inner' and 'Outer' wrecksites Gibraltar".
  33. Shipwreck M.Y. Alastor.
  34. Shipwreck Earl of Abergavenny. Archived 23 April 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  35. "Purton Hulks have their bones picked by looters", Times online, 22 March 2008.
  36. "Bid to save old boats graveyard", BBC News, 27 March 2008.
  37. Todd Stevens and Ed Cumming, The Rosevear Ledge Wrecksite.
  38. "Diving Project - Wreck investigation". Southsea Sub-Aqua Club. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
  39. Cumming, Ed. "Weymouth's Errant Torpedoes". The Weymouth 'LUNAR' Society. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
  40. Antony Firth, Wessex Archaeology, "Old Shipwrecks and New Dredging: An Elizabethan Ship in the Thames" in Underwater Cultural Heritage at Risk: Managing Natural and Human Impacts, ICOMOS, 2006.
  41. Wessex Archaeology's investigation of the wreck in Thames
  42. Gresham College lecture on Elizabethan ships
  43. Thames Odyssey project site for Gresham Ship
  44. Port of London website for Gresham Ship
  45. University of South Denmark Research on the Gresham Ship.
  46. 3H Consulting website, the home of Site Recorder: Examples of surveyed sites, guidance on 3D survey and free Site Reader tool
  47. Resurgam Archive Archived 5 December 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  48. 24 hour museum report on Wreckmap Britain 2005
  49. Dorset Coast Forum report on Wreckmap Britain 2006
  50. Shipwrecks UK, with context, thematic and detailed information on more than 45,000 shipwrecks in the seas surrounding Britain and Ireland, building on the Lloyds Register Shipwreck Index volumes.
  51. Forton Lake Project.
  52. Beehive Community website on Stoney Cove Oral History project
  53. University of Leicester Stoney Cove Oral History project.
  54. Dig, Dive and Discover.
  55. NEEMARA at Hartlepool Borough Council
  56. NAS Part Two reports.
  57. SW Maritime History Society pilot for Big Anchor.
  58. Big Anchor Project.
  59. Hartlepool Built website Archived 6 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  60. Hartlepool Mail story about Hartlepool Built.
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