The Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) started out in 1964 as the Council for Nautical Archaeology (CNA) which had the remit to act as a channel of communication between divers and the appropriate learned bodies to share discoveries within the field of marine archaeology.
Council membership initially 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, the Society for Post Medieval Archaeology and the British Sub-Aqua Club.
The CNA established the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology (IJNA) and the Nautical Archaeology Trust in 1972, which would eventually become NAS. It also played a key part in what became the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973.
CNA’s Nautical Archaeology Trust was registered as a charity in 1972 as the CNA’s charitable arm. Its objectives 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.”
In 1974, chairman of the CNA and of NAT, Professor WF Grimes, proposed that what was needed was a membership society. The new society’s inaugural meeting eventually took place in 1981 with Joan du Plat Taylor as the first president.
Initially, the activities of the Trust were separated from the members of the society but this started to change in 1984 when the CNA was incorporated into the Council for British Archaeology as one of its research sub-committees.
In July 1986 members of the Trust voted to change its name to the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) along with its constitution to reflect the change to a membership organisation.
NAS continued to have responsibility for producing the IJNA and in the same year it ran its first educational events.
The NAS academic journal The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology (IJNA) marked its 40th Volume in 2011 and a special 40th Anniversary Virtual Issue was published. It featured key investigations and developments in the field of nautical archaeology published over the last four decades.