Underwater Archaeology

Maryland Maritime Archaeology Program  

Maryland Maritime Archaeology Program

As part of the state Department of Planning and housed in the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT), the Maryland Maritime Archaeology Program (MMAP) was created in 1988 in response to the National Abandoned Shipwreck Act that gave states that had management programs in place, title to significant historic shipwreck remains within their waters. In addition to shipwrecks, MMAP searches for, inventories and manages the state's other submerged cultural resources. These include prehistoric sites and historic structures such as buildings, bridges, and wharf remains. Maryland’s waters cover a range of vessels from native log canoes to colonial merchantmen and warships, and even relatively modern shipwrecks of historic importance.

MMAP actively undertakes cooperative endeavors with numerous groups and agencies at local, state, and federal levels to promote wise management, as well as public education and outreach. These partnerships include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Navy; the National Park Service; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; the Maryland State Highway Administration; the Maryland Department of Natural Resources; maritime, historical, and archaeological societies; dive clubs; metal detecting groups; and local and regional schools.

STAMP logo  

Shipwreck Tagging Archaeological Management Program (STAMP)

The Shipwreck Tagging Archaeological Management Program (STAMP) is a public engagement program focused on documenting and monitoring shipwreck sites and following the movement of shipwreck timbers along Maryland's coasts. STAMP is part of a multistate program in which anyone can participate.



U-1105 Black Panther before sinking in the Potomac River          in St. Mary’s County, Maryland U-1105 Black Panther before sinking in the Potomac River in St. Mary’s County, Maryland.

U-1105 "Black Panther" Historic Shipwreck Preserve

In addition to finding and studying submerged cultural resources, MMAP actively manages individual and collections of sites.  The U-1105 Black Panther Historic Shipwreck Preserve is an example of a submerged site that MHT manages through and agreement with the U.S. Navy.



Most of the work that MMAP carries out would not be possible without the help and support of volunteers.

Volunteers need not be interested in diving, as archaeological surveys and data management requires skills in boat handling, recording of artifacts, and a range of computer skills.

» Volunteering with the Maritime Program

Artifacts and hull              remains from Columbus, after conservation at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab              at the Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum Artifacts and hull remains from Columbus, after conservation at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab at the Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum.

Laws and Regulations

State and federal laws protect submerged historic and archaeological resources located on Maryland bottomlands. In Maryland, state waters include tidal waters up to the mean high tide line and three miles from the coastline, and non-tidal waters within the boundaries of the state that were navigable under the laws of the United States as of April 28, 1788, up to the ordinary high-water mark. MHT regulates and manages all prehistoric and historic cultural remains in, partially in, or submerged beneath state waters. Additionally, MMAP is responsible for the administration of the Submerged Archaeological Historic Property Act and its implementing regulations as well as applications for research, recovery, or construction projects; site assessments; and evaluations for National Register eligibility. MMAP also assists governmental agencies and their program clients to meet their statutory historic preservation responsibilities through the project review and compliance process.

» Fact sheet about the regulations governing submerged and semi-submerged archaeological historic resources.

» Information on permits for archaeology on submerged cultural resources

Staff and Resources

Dr. Langley during hardhat diver training Dr. Langley during hardhat diver training.

MMAP staff include Dr. Susan Langley and Troy Nowak, who have over 40 years combined experience in conducting remote-sensing surveys and excavating submerged archaeological resources around the world. Both scientists are SCUBA certified and have specialized experience in the documentation of shipwreck structures in the underwater environment.

MMAP is a fully functional scientific unit with numerous research vessels; diving, surveying, and excavation equipment; and specialized software used to find and study Maryland’s submerged history.

Research Projects

MMAP works continuously to survey and study the wide variety of submerged cultural resources that are located on or under Maryland’s bottomlands. Information from these projects is made available to the public in the form of survey and archaeological reports, informational brochures, posters, and exhibits.

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