Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation Lecture Series

 

Mauro Bondioli

 
 

November 2005

 

     
Visits of outside scholars are wonderful opportunities to expose our students to other ways of thinking, listening to first hand accounts of the newest developments in the field, exchanging of ideas and information, and showing their own work and skills.

In spite of its geographical isolation - College Station is often out of the way for scholars inside and outside the USA -the Nautical Archaeology Program (NAP) has been an open institution as much as possible, since its creation, in the later 1970s. Scholars, students, and other interested persons have always been welcome to visit our headquarters and to see and use its laboratories, libraries, offices, and classrooms.

 

The first invited scholar of the CMAS Lecture Series was Mr. Mauro Bondioli, who taught a class (ANTH616 - Research and Reconstruction of Ships) to the Nautical Archaeology Program students.

Almost every year NAP students have enjoyed visits of renown scholars and learned from their lectures, profited from formal and informal conversations and exchanges of ideas, and took the opportunities to network and try to find projects or subjects for their scholarly research.

This interchanges also create opportunities for the visiting scholars to get abreast with NAP ongoing projects, research methods, and facilities, both in College Station and Bodrum.

The importance of these visits has grown continuously in the past three decades. Since the creation of the NAP, almost thirty years ago, the professional world of nautical archaeologists became increasingly complex. Nautical archaeology is now a mainstream subfield of Archaeology and is taught at universities around the world, which offer seminars and graduate specializations in both nautical archaeology and maritime history studies. All these developments pose new logistical, organizational and ethical problems, and the exchanges of ideas and information that take place during the visits of outside scholars are an invaluable source of knowledge for both faculty and students.

Progress in deep sea exploration, the discovery of new shipwreck sites and new historical documents, the generalization of treasure hunting as a global industry closely tied to a booming antiquities market, are only a few developments that require constant information from all those involved with the field of nautical archaeology.
For all these reasons Texas A&M University has created a Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation (CMAC) within the Department of Anthropology, which will operate in conjunction with the NAP and has committed to try to invite one or two top world specialists every year, to spend some time in College Station and interact with the faculty and the students.

The first invited scholar, Mr. Mauro Bondioli, has been studying shipbuilding techniques in the Italian Middle Ages and Renaissance for over 26 years, and is a renowned world specialist with a profound knowledge of the principles, techniques and rules that guided the naval construction particularly of galleys in Italy, in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries.

Mr. Bondioli spend a week in College Station last November, visiting the laboratories, libraries and other facilities of the Nautical Archaeology Program and gave two lectures, totaling four hours, the first directed to students, and the second open to students, faculty and staff of the entire department.

 

 

 The first lecture consisted on an overview of the known history of rowing craft in Italy, from its beginning to the late 16th century. The second was an account of the amazing discoveries of the archaeological field seasons carried out on the sites of the two amazing shipwrecks of Boccalama, Venice (directed by Marco D'Agostino) and the early 15th century fusta of Lazise (directed by Massimo Capulli).

The main purpose of his visit was the creation of an informal group for the study of Italian shipbuilding - similar to the existing Group for the Study of Iberian Seafaring (http://nautarch.tamu.edu/shiplab/index-iberian.htm) - involving students and faculty. The principal objective of such a group is the development of contacts between NAP students and Italian scholars that will facilitate the investigation of student's thesis subjects and facilitate an informal peer review process of their work.
 One of the outcomes of Mr. Bondioli's visit was the establishment of a basic bibliography to be available - and mandatory - to all students interested in pursuing their studies on this subject. The second outcome of this visit was the establishment of an informal e-mail list where students can brainstorm and are asked to produce monthly short essays on core subjects of their research.

This teaching strategy creates an intense intellectual involvement and helps students to develop ideas, acquire knowledge, and advance their research topics at a faster rate. Furthermore, it and exposes them to the dynamics of group work and the often times counter-intuitive advantages of cooperation, such as quick and informal peer-review of ideas and share of information.
The third, and perhaps most important outcome of this visit, was the idea - presently under study - of publishing a two volume work on the world of Italian shipbuilding, from its origins to the late 16th century, directed and edited by Mauro Bondioli, one of the world greatest authorities on this subject.
 
     

Acknowledgements

The Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation and the Nautical Archaeology Program would like to express its gratitude to Prof. Luigi Fozzati, from the Soprintendenza Archeologica per il Veneto, and director of NAUSICAA (Nucleo di Archeologia Umida Subacquea Italia Centro-Alto Adriatico), for having granted permission to Mr. Bondioli to represent all the scientists and their teams involved in these works, and sharing with us all the knowledge already gathered in these ongoing projects.