NAS Training System

The Nautical Archaeology Society Training System has been running since 1986 and consists of a structured training program in four levels.

Part I

is a two-day course 'Introduction to Archaeology Under Water', designed to appeal to anyone.

Part II

consists of either a day-school in more advanced survey methods and/or a series of lectures. Obtaining Part II requires the completion of a practical survey and a short report.

Part III

is either a two week field school, or more realistically in weather-dependent parts of the World, a series of 1 - 2 day courses, where each introduces a specific aspect of archaeology. The design of these can be infinitely varied but are offered under seven subject groups:

  • Research and data handling (archives, databases, computer modelling, etc.)
  • Ancient technology (including reconstructions and experimental archaeology)
  • Conservation (problems of waterlogged materials, first-aid, passive holding, storage, etc.)
  • Archaeological Science (dating methods, material analysis)
  • Excavation
  • Survey (including hydrographic survey, position fixing, predisturbance surveys)
  • Recording (3D structures, photography, illustration).

The advantage of splitting Part III this way is that each course can be run in an optimum location depending on the subject, something often difficult to provide on one fieldcourse.

Part IV

requires participation in a project at supervisory level and an input into production of the report.

One of the main characteristics of the system is its standard syllabus. NAS courses are run all over the world (including the USA). The emphasis, and general 'flavour' of the course will (and should) reflect local priorities and the instructor's research interests and experience, but the core syllabus will always be the same. So NAS Part I's taught in India, Bermuda, Sweden, Cyprus, Turkey, Canada, South Africa, Ireland or Australia (all real examples) will essentially be the same animal. In this way the program attempts to promote a common international standard. Over 4,000 (I may be way out of date here) sport divers, professional divers, students (and a fair number of land archaeologists wanting to acquaint themselves with how archaeology is applied underwater) have gone through Part I. We don't teach people to excavate (until Part III) nor do we teach 'kitchen-sink' conservation, instead we focus on the problems associated with both. The Part I course has a central practical component expressly aimed at teaching the necessary skills to carry out a pre-disturbance survey of a wreck or any underwater site. A large proportion of these students then continue through the system to the higher levels. In the UK, divers are not only encouraged to record sites, but also to submit the results to the Maritime section of our National Monuments Record, thereby contributing to the growing database.

We also find it a convenient way of bolting on practical modules to university courses. For example, undergraduate students at Southampton can get through NAS Part II and start on Part III, while Masters students doing the MA/MSc in Maritime Archaeology can complete Part III by the time they finish their degree. There's now a professional incentive for UK residents to do so as the 'Institute for Field Archaeologists' (the UK's professional body) has accredited the NAS program and accepts Part III as the equivalent of field experience for those wanting to join. This is a good example of the way the professional and avocational fields can blend productively. Many of our students feed back into the NAS system as tutors. Occasionally the wheel turns full circle, as some of those they instruct (most Part I classes are sport divers) decide to study archaeology and turn up at university as students.

The program has now been adopted in many other countries as a ready-made educational tool that can provide an important contribution to heritage management (It is for this reason that in the UK the program is part funded by Government). In countries where similar courses are already run, the training organisations have collaborated with the NAS to correlate their syllabus, so further promoting common standards.

For further info, contact Chris Underwood, NAS Training Officer:

measuring underwater

Related links

by Jon Adams

Centre for Maritime Archaeology
University of Southampton

Feb 1999

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