Project Staff (Rule 23)

© Wessex Archaeology
A diver putting on his equipment. Surface-supplied diver with the diving helmet and the umbilical device that supplies the diver with air, a communication line, video line to his/her camera, depth guage, acoustic tracking and safety line. All project members involved in an underwater archaeological project must possess the necessary knowledge, qualifications, skills, training and understanding to ensure that their actions do not endanger this precious heritage. They must thus be competent in their specific field of action and with respect to the specific task assigned to them in the framework of the project.

Most of what has been said about archaeological qualifications and competence is applicable not only to the archaeologist directing a project but also to each member of any team planning an intervention in underwater heritage. The individual qualifications and competence of each team member are as important to the success of an intervention as those of the project director.

The nature of underwater cultural heritage is such that any single intervention will require a wide range of expertise and specialization. This is usually a mixed bag of interdisciplinary specialized skills – ranging from archaeology to artefact conservation, nautical history and ship construction to marine biology to oceanography – and requiring a multifaceted team of people to accomplish. The project director must give careful thought to the team requirements and must ensure that the skills and expertise needed to successfully carry out the project are available within or to the project team.

Any project team must therefore be appropriately sized, qualified and competent for the particular project being undertaken. Individual members’ expertise, knowledge and experience will be complementary and as the team works together this should add up to more than the sum of its parts. No team will, however, have all the answers. In addition to their individual and collective experience and knowledge, it is just as important for the project director and team members to know when and where to go for additional advice, information and guidance.



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Criteria applicable to all team members

All team members should

  • be members of appropriate professional bodies and subscribe to professional standards and codes of conduct; 
  • from the beginning, and throughout the project, be fully briefed on project goals, research agendas, field methodologies, diving and other operational issues, health and safety arrangements, and individual and team responsibilities. The project director must ensure that each and every team member understands what is required, and how his/her specific expertise or role fits into the work programme and project goals.
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The participation of non-archaeologists in projects

 As the requirement for professional direction and control of underwater heritage projects becomes increasingly understood, accepted and possible to achieve worldwide, archaeologists and competent authorities must not lose sight of the fact that there is a large body of divers and other members of the public who are very keen to actively participate in underwater heritage projects. Archaeologists and competent authorities must encourage responsible participation and involvement by the wider diving community in investigating and managing underwater heritage. An informed and enthusiastic diving community is a wonderful ally and asset in the work of managing and investigating underwater cultural heritage.


Referred to as ‘avocationals’, these are individuals who are principally engaged in a career other than archaeology, but who commit themselves, usually in their free time, to archaeological work. Avocational team members are a valuable potential resource to professional archaeologists and successful projects have been run in many places around the world using avocational staff. One of the best-known projects in which large numbers of non-archaeologists participated was the excavation between 1979 and 1982 of the Tudor warship, the Mary Rose in Portsmouth in the United Kingdom.

Avocationals are usually keen, dedicated and committed, and many provide their time and services to projects at no charge. They often have skills and expertise that can be useful to a project – whether it be computer database design, engineering skills or a flair for logistics and project management. Most importantly, they are interested in the archaeology for the right reasons and if involved in projects will be assumed to have the same ethical responsibilities as archaeologists.

The requirements for their qualifications and competence will be established by the project director, usually in consultation with the competent authority, or based on formal local or national policy or guidance. Where avocational team members fit into this scheme will vary from country to country, but it will always be the responsibility of the project director to ensure that all avocational team members have a suitable minimum level of training, appropriate to their role in the project. This training may take place as part of the project, or it may have been acquired as part of a more formal training scheme, such as through the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS), whose training scheme developed out of the avocational interest and involvement on the Mary Rose project.

Whether avocationals come to a project with recognized competence, or whether they are given training on the project, project directors and archaeologists on teams should always be aware of the degree of competence of avocational colleagues in the tasks they are given. At the same time, however, avocational team members should be encouraged to explore their potential and develop their skills.

Whatever its composition, the project team is the vehicle that will deliver the project objectives, and as such, is a particularly important aspect of any project planning, which, if neglected, has dire consequences for the archaeological record.

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