Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology

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The Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology (OCMA) is a specialist research group within the School of Archaeology at the University of Oxford in England.


Established in 2003 with the on-going support of the Hilti Foundation, the OCMA is devoted to the study of people who live or work on and around water. The centre offers undergraduate and postgraduate courses in maritime archaeology and fosters research that ranges from the Mediterranean and its surrounding seas and oceans to the maritime cultures and peoples of the Indian Ocean and South China Sea from antiquity to the early modern period. In Egypt, the OCMA collaborates on field projects implemented by the Institut Européen d’Archéologie Sous-Marine (IEASM),[1] under the direction of Franck Goddio. In 2011, OCMA began the excavation of shipwreck 43 in Aboukir Bay and the centre is also involved in work in Libya. Its research is disseminated through a vigorous programme of international conferences and in-house monograph publication.

Teaching and research[edit]

The Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology offers post-graduate courses in maritime archaeology and provides post-graduate supervision within the School of Archaeology and the Faculty of Classics.[citation needed] The Hilti Foundation funds two postgraduate studentships into research relating to IEASM excavations in ancient Heracleion. Current[when?] post-graduates research includes the Byzantine harbours in Greece and Spain, and the maritime archaeology of the Philippines, Korea and Cambodia. An option in Mediterranean maritime archaeology is also available to undergraduates.


The Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology is actively engaged in fieldwork as part of its on-going research strategy. It also offers training opportunities in field methods for its students.

Shipwreck 43, Aboukir Bay[edit]

OCMA is currently[when?] excavating shipwreck 43, one of 67 ancient ships so-far recorded by IEASM under Franck Goddio.[2] Tentatively dated to between 785-481 cal BC, the vessel has a distinctive form of naval architecture that has not been fully documented elsewhere in the ancient Mediterranean. This involved the use of long tenons that were initially fitted into mortice holes that passed through the keel plank over which multiple lines of planking were added, pegged into place with wooden treenails. From the albeit limited excavations, there do not appear to be any frames and consequently the long tenons may have provided the structural stability of the vessel through a kind of ‘internal framework’. As the structural elements of the wreck were made from the locally-available wood Acacia Totilis/Radiana, it is thought[who?] that shipwreck 43 was Egyptian in origin and thus probably involves a shipbuilding tradition that developed in accordance with the availability of local supplies of timber and the realities of nautical life at the margins of the Nile Delta.

The Western Marmarica Coastal Survey[edit]

The OCMA supports the Western Marmarica Coastal Survey (WMCS) to investigate the engagement of the Roman and Byzantine countryside with coastal trade in eastern Libya.[3] The region east of Tobruk was populated by small farms and villages, most of whom exported their produce in amphora made in their own kilns. Although the area lacked the environmental resources to develop into a major centre, it is not isolated. A range of archaeological finds suggest connections, at different times, to Cyrenaica, ca. 250 km west and to the Egyptian delta, some 600 km to the east, as well as contacts across the eastern Mediterranean to the Aegean, and through the Sahara to west Africa or the Sudan.

Conferences and publication[edit]

The Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology publishes a monograph series as part of the Institute of Archaeology’s publication programme. The OCMA oversees the scholarly publication of the fieldwork conducted by the IEASM in Alexandria and the submerged Canopic region, as well as post-excavation studies of the material culture recovered from these excavations by IEASM specialists and Hilti Foundation sponsored post-graduate students. The OCMA regularly organizes conferences exploring themes within maritime archaeology or relating to the fieldwork of the IEASM. Volumes arising out of these conferences are also included in the monograph series.

Each volume is assessed by an internal review committee comprising principal members of staff from the Institute of Archaeology, the Oriental Institute, the Classics Centre and the Ashmolean Museum, and are also peer-reviewed.


OCMA has published the following:[4]

  • Topography and Excavation of Heracleion-Thonis and East Canopus (1996-2006), OCMA Monograph 1 by Franck Goddio
  • Geoarchaeology, OCMA Monograph 2 by J.-D. Stanley et al.
  • The Naos of the Decades, OCMA Monograph 3 by Anne-Sophie von Bomhard
  • La stele de Ptolémée VIII Évergète II à Héracléion, OCMA Monograph 4 by Christophe Thiers
  • Alexandria and the North-Western Delta: Joint Conference Proceedings of Alexandria City and Harbour (Oxford 2004) and The Trade and Topography of Egypt’s North-Western Delta (Berlin 2006), OCMA Monograph 5) by Damian Robinson and Andrew Wilson (eds)
  • Maritime Archaeology and Ancient Trade in the Mediterranean, Conference Proceedings of Maritime Archaeology and Ancient Trade in the Mediterranean (Madrid 2008à Monograph 6 by Damian Robinson and Andrew Wilson (eds)
  • Decree of Saïs, OCMA Monograph 7 by Anne-Sophie von Bomhard


  • 2013 Heracleion in context (Oxford)
  • 2011 Cleopatra and the end of the Hellenistic world (Philadelphia)
  • 2009 East meets West along the maritime silk route (Tokyo)
  • 2008 Maritime archaeology and ancient trade in the Mediterranean (Madrid)
  • 2006 The trade and topography of Egypt’s north-western Delta (Berlin)
  • 2004 Alexandria: City and Harbour (Oxford)


  • Director: Damian Robinson
  • Visiting senior lecturer: Franck Goddio
  • Research assistant: Linda Hulin
  • Research associates: David Blackman
  • Research Associate: Robert Hohlfelder


  1. ^ Institut Européen d'Archéologie Sous-Marine (IEASM).
  2. ^ Robinson, D. (2012). "News"Nautical archaeology Society Newsletter (Winter 2012).
  3. ^ Hulin, L. et al. (2008-2010). Reports in Libyan Studies 39-41 (Winter 2012)
  4. ^ Oxbow Books.

External links[edit]