George F. Bass

INSTITUTE OF NAUTICAL ARCHAEOLOGY. The Institute of Nautical Archaeology was incorporated in 1973 as the American Institute of Nautical Archaeology in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was founded as a nonprofit scientific and educational organization with the purpose of gathering knowledge of man's past from the physical remains of his maritime activities and disseminating this knowledge through scholarly and popular publications, seminars, and lectures. Institute funding has come from a number of sources, including its board of directors, the National Geographic Society, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and private foundations. In the early 1990s the institute also drew support from an endowment of $1.5 million, from 600 members, and from twenty supporting institutions (universities, museums, and archeological organizations). The institute does not benefit financially from the recovery of underwater remains, as all artifacts recovered belong to the nations in whose waters they are found.

The institute originally brought together on Cyprus three pioneers of underwater archeology whose interests lay in the eastern Mediterranean. War on Cyprus in 1974, however, temporarily halted the institute's year-round research and summer field-schools in that area, and caused it to close its overseas headquarters. During the next two years the institute broadened its scope to include shipwrecks of the American War of Independence; the seventeenth-century Portuguese ship Santo Antonio de Tanna off Mombasa, Kenya (the first scientific underwater excavation in East Africa); and a survey and saturation-diving operation off Sicily. Meanwhile, Turkey allowed the institute to resume its research in the eastern Mediterranean with the excavation of a Middle Bronze Age cargo of around 1600 B.C. Between 1974 and 1976 the institute had no permanent base; its staff moved from country to country as required. Concurrent negotiations with a number of universities, however, led to an affiliation with Texas A&M University in the summer of 1976, when the institute established permanent headquarters near College Station, Texas. Several of the growing number of institute staff joined the Texas A&M faculty, with sufficient parts of their salaries still paid by the independent institute to allow them time for overseas research. Texas A&M soon offered an M.A. in anthropology with a nautical archeology specialization; by the early 1990s it offered a Ph.D.

In 1978 the institute legally shortened its name to the Institute of Nautical Archaeology to reflect the international character of its directors, staff, and projects. By 1991 the staff had grown to more than fifteen, with additional assistants hired for specific conservation projects. Field projects by that time encompassed both the New and Old worlds, and institute staff frequently served as consultants to foreign governments. The Institute of Nautical Archaeology owns extensive equipment in Turkey and Jamaica, including a sixty-five-foot steel vessel, Virazon, with a double-lock recompression chamber, a darkroom, and compressors and diving equipment; the institute also owns a complete conservation laboratory and camping equipment for fifty people. Its research continues year-round in the Museum of Underwater Archaeology in Bodrum, Turkey. Individuals who later became staff members helped to found this institution in 1960. Under Turkish direction the Bodrum Museum has grown into perhaps the finest museum of nautical archeology in the world.

In the late 1970s institute work in Turkey concentrated on the excavation of the "Glass Wreck." Its cargo is one of the finest collections of medieval Islamic glass ever found, and its hull marks the transition in shipbuilding technology from "shell-first" to "frame-first" construction. In the early 1990s the ship and its exquisite cargo were on display in a spectacular exhibit in Bodrum, Turkey. Since 1984 institute field work in Turkey has focused on the oldest shipwreck known, the 3,400-year-old Bronze Age ship off Ulu Burun. The finds from this ship-more than five tons of materials, including copper, ivory, gold, tin, glass, resin for incense, and the world's oldest book-are revolutionizing concepts about the Bronze Age in the Eastern Mediterranean. In the New World, work beginning in 1981 at the sunken city of Port Royal, Jamaica, has revealed much about colonial life in the seventeenth century. In Port Royal, Institute staff first used the prototype of the SHARPS system, a specially designed sonic measuring device that enables users to gather precise measurements in poor visibility or at great depths. Also in Jamaica, the institute has searched for the last two vessels that Columbus commanded.

Institute of Nautical Archaeology field projects are staffed mostly by volunteers-primarily Texas A&M graduate students, but also archeologists from other universities, as well as physicians, illustrators, photographers, engineers, and mechanics. Texas A&M provides the institute rent-free offices on campus; in return, the institute gives Texas A&M students and faculty free use of its equipment and facilities on several continents. Three representatives of Texas A&M, including its president, sit on the institute board of directors. The Texas A&M University Press initiated an INA Monograph series for the publication of institute excavation reports. In the early 1990s reports on Institute of Nautical Archaeology projects were published in a variety of places, including the quarterly INA Newsletter for members and the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology.

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, George F. Bass, "INSTITUTE OF NAUTICAL ARCHAEOLOGY," accessed June 16, 2019,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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