Image by Mal B; CC BY-ND 2.0

The Underwater Cultural Heritage (UCH) project arose from the need to document, explore and preserve underwater sites along the Lycian coast of Turkey. In recent decades, this region has distinguished itself as a centre of underwater tourism. The increasing number of recreational divers with increased access to sites of potential historical and archaeological importance has led to a growing wish to to allow these divers to participate in underwater research.

The UCH project carried out systematic and meaningful surveys, which contributed to the preservation of the sites in situ. For artifact documentation, the UCH study used digitization methods rather than removing artifacts from their original deposit to bring them to the surface. From the outset, particular attention has been paid to low-budget tools, digital methods and optimal public participation.

The overall plan was to convert the sites to digital formats so that the UCH team or others could process and use them digitally. As a digital humanities project, it wanted to find a new approach to archaeology in the information age addressing the combined challenges of underwater work, in-situ conservation, crowdsourcing, low-budget, public participation, new methods, visualization, interaction and dissemination.

The information is visualised into photorealistic 3D models generated from photographs, 2D GeoCharts from geographic coordinates, and parametric 3D models translated from parametric definitions of amphorae, in addition to photogrammetric images and 2D CAD drawings. New visualization methods were developed during the study. The UCH project focused on three interactive applications, namely the virtual museum as an online interaction tool, VR applications as a more immersive approach to experiential methods for communicating results, and the extended archaeologist as a collaborative framework through real-time visualization of 3D models.

From the beginning, the project was confronted with several site-specific challenges:

The lack of publicly accessible data on nautical archaeology was the first challenge. To date, there is no compilation of this extensive heritage, apart from some non-governmental attempts, such as the Turkish Archaeological Settlements (TAY) project, to collect and preserve information on archaeological excavations and surveys in Turkey. There is no public information system for nautical archaeology in Turkey.

This huge amount of archaeological data that has not been recorded is a second challenge that would be doubly supported in dissemination by conducting surveys on undiscovered remains and then attracting the attention of archaeologists.

Thirdly, the lack of a systematic documentation methodology for in situ conservation.

The fourth challenge was to contribute to the redefinition of nautical archaeology in the digital domain and arose from the desire to apply an approach to museology with a more interactive dimension that allow public participation

Source: Digital in Underwater Cultural Heritage bGuzden Varinlioglu, Cambridge Scholars Publishing. 2016.