Learning maritime archaeology without getting wet

By Paige Churchill-Farmer

The NAS e-learning courses are excellent foundational courses that combine with practical Skills Days to achieve the NAS Foundation Qualification. No prior knowledge is required with these courses, making them a perfect introduction to and summary of maritime archaeological practices for participants at all skill levels.

The current available courses include “Discover Maritime Archaeology” which is an introduction to all aspects and practices of maritime archaeology, while the “Discover Underwater Archaeology” and “Discover Coastal and Foreshore Archaeology” courses will take you through the steps of completing an underwater or coastal and foreshore archaeology project from documentary research and planning, through fieldwork and conservation to publication and archiving. The “Discover Coastal and Foreshore Archaeology” and “Discover Underwater Archaeology” courses are expected to take between three to four hours to complete, while the “Discover Maritime Archaeology” is expected to take just between two to three hours.


Above: Screen grab of introduction to Maritime Archaeology module from the Discover Maritime Archaeology course.

The structure of the courses consists of multiple modules with short tests after each topic and a final quiz to solidify knowledge and ensure long-term retention. The module tests, as well as the course quiz, can be retaken as many times as necessary to achieve the 80% pass rate, allowing the participant to go back and check the relevant modules to ensure their notes and learning is as accurate as possible and that they have understood the content.

Each module is packed with information and supplemented with helpful diagrams, animations, and videos to further illustrate points and provide clear examples. Throughout the course there are useful links with further information that allow the participant to expand their knowledge beyond the course if a certain subject or example piques their interest. Some courses also offer additional reading suggestions to further develop the participants knowledge if they so choose. A printable handout of course notes is available with each course allowing the participant to easily refer to information as well as make notes alongside the course information.


Above: Screen grab from Underwater Fieldwork module of the Discover Underwater Archaeology course.

I was lucky enough to take part in all three courses as someone with zero prior knowledge of maritime archaeology, but lots of enthusiasm and found each course intuitive to follow and highly engaging. The illustrations and animations made even potentially complicated or confusing processes- such as a step-by-step guide to sketching accurate scale versions of wrecks- easy to follow and understand, and each section felt professional and polished. The modules built upon one another - for this reason I would strongly recommend taking the modules in order - and so by the end of the course I found myself already using and applying previously new and novel information naturally.

Alongside stating the standard practices and methods for undertaking marine archaeology, the course also encourages the participant to use critical thinking skills to question not only why we follow these procedures, but differing opinions and debates on the motivation behind why we carry out archaeology in the first place which is an aspect of heritage I had not previously considered but found incredibly interesting.


Above: Screen grab from Archiving and Dissemination module from the Discover Coastal and Foreshore Archaeology course.

In conclusion, the NAS e-learning courses are fantastic foundational courses that not only teach participants the course material, but encourages them to do their own research and learning outside of the course and offers avenues to do this, from further reading to the Skills Days available through NAS. The course is perfect for anyone interested in maritime archaeology, from casual interest to people considering or working in the field professionally.

To find out more about the eLearning programme here...