Transylvania students, professor dive into underwater archaeology this summer

Two Transylvania University students and their anthropology professor have been exploring underwater shipwrecks off St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean this summer.

Juniors Olivia Livingston and Caroline McMahan, along with professor Chris Begley, are investigating areas that have the potential for submerged archaeological sites — and they’re visiting several known shipwrecks to determine their age and condition, Begley said.

Supported by Transylvania’s David and Betty Jones Faculty Development Fund, their investigations include exploring sites near the first non-native settlements in the area by French colonizers.

“Caroline and Olivia have had the opportunity to really put underwater archaeological skills to work — from surveying new areas to mapping to diving on half a dozen shipwrecks,” Begley said.

McMahan said they are learning and practicing archaeological skills like navigation in real-world situations. “This project gives us a glimpse of what the future could be like after graduation, continuing in underwater archaeology.”

Livingston noted the value of immersing themselves in a place that is new to them. “This forces us to think about our archaeological research not only as answering research questions, but also as guests, invited by our hosts to participate in the process of understanding and preserving the past.”

The group from Transylvania is assessing the feasibility of future research in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Begley said. “From discussions we’ve had with representatives of the government here, there are many ways in which our archaeological goals complement the goals of the governmental entities charged with protecting and promoting the culture and history of the island.”