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1Twenty-four years after the seventh ISBSA was held on the island of Tatihou, it became the turn of Marseille on the Mediterranean coast of France to have the honour of hosting the fifteenth International Symposium on Boat and Ship Archaeology (ISBSA 15), which brought together, from 22 to 27 October 2018, some 300 scholars, PhD and post-doctoral researchers, and students from 36 countries belonging to almost 130 research bodies.

Participants of the fifteenth International Symposium on Boat and Ship Archaeology (ISBSA 15)

Participants of the fifteenth International Symposium on Boat and Ship Archaeology (ISBSA 15)

(Lionel Roux/CNRS CCJ)

2Marseille, the oldest town in France, was founded around 600 BC by Greek settlers, who had arrived by sea from Phocaea in Asia Minor. Today it is the country’s largest port, the birth­place of underwater diving, and is endowed with numerous archaeological shipwrecks that have been found on land and under sea. Marseille was the European Cultural Capital for 2013, and the city and its region took advantage of the event to showcase its heritage, especially maritime, and update facilities and institutions in order to develop an ideal venue for hosting the many participants.

3The conference was organised by the Centre Camille Jullian – UMR 7299 (CCJ), a research laboratory specialising in Mediterranean archaeology based within the Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l’Homme at Aix-en-Provence. The CCJ has institutional ties to the University of Aix-Marseille, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), the French Ministry of Culture, and the Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives (INRAP). For many years the CCJ has been one of the main centres of French research into nautical and maritime archaeology and, in 2018, on the occasion of ISBSA 15, it celebrated 50 years of activity in this field. Indeed, it was in 1968 that the Institut d’Archéologie Méditerranéenne, from which the CCJ was born, began underwater excavations on the Roman shipwrecks Planier III and Madrague de Giens, and developed the first French team dedicated to nautical and maritime archaeology.

4Three great museums welcomed ISBSA 15: the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations, Marseille History Museum with its exceptional collection of ancient wrecks from the city, and the Departmental Museum of Ancient Arles with its remarkable Gallo-Roman barge Arles-Rhône 3. The Ministry of Culture’s department for underwater archaeo­logical research (DRASSM), which is based in Marseille, mobilised its research ship André-Malraux and its fleet of support vessels for a special evening event dedicated to this institution.

5The theme of the conference was “Open sea, closed sea: Local and inter-regional traditions in shipbuilding” and the intention was to reveal interactions between local and inter-­regional traditions of open and enclosed waters through examples taken from nautical areas as varied and representative as possible. Each region has its own shipbuilding traditions on the local level, which reflect the particularities of its sailing space, especially as regards geographic, physical and economic aspects, although political, social and cultural conditions are also relevant. The more pronounced the particularities, the stronger and more persistent the regional traditions. But beyond the local level, which is clearly marked by specific activities limited in scope, these same phenomena can be found in closed maritime spaces. On the other hand, once the maritime space extends beyond the regional, local particularities become blurred and give way to shared, if not universal traditions. Within this context, and the contradictory interplay between local resistance and reciprocal inter-regional influences that can lead to technology transfers, changes in shipbuilding traditions can occur. Such changes will be more or less rapid and more or less complex depending on the size and nature of the maritime exchanges and the extent of the maritime spaces in question.

6This volume includes 60 contributions from 82 authors covering different nautical areas (the Mediterranean, Atlantic, Pacific, Baltic, North Sea, and South China Sea) from pre­history to the modern era, and is built around the principal theme and seven other sub-themes: ship construction; recent discoveries; nautical ethnography; dendrology; experimental archaeology; research methods; and Asian studies. Alongside traditional topics, dendrology studies were accorded a specific session for the first time: a sign of the important contributions of xylology, dendromorphology and dendrochronology to the study of vessels. In addition, nautical ethnography studies have regularly found a place in this conference to the extent that studies covering the Asian region required the allotment of two special sessions, whose presence is reflected in this volume. And lastly, the editors have chosen to publish the conference posters in the form of short contributions that appear in the ninth and final section.

7Thus, the programme of ISBSA 15, as reproduced in this volume testifies by its very size to the development of nautical archaeology into a fully-fledged discipline grown to maturity. In this respect, the continuous involvement of new countries from outside Europe, the emergence of new research themes, and the rejuvenation of established teams by the remarkable presence of so many young researchers are all signs of vitality.

8This augurs well for the future of studies in the archaeology of boats and ships. Nonetheless, we must be wary of closing ourselves off within this single discipline. Nautical archaeology cannot be self-sufficient, and can only be justified by the scope of the historical discourse that it generates. It is only through such an attitude that other disciplines, such as economic and social history, the history of technology and environmental history will recognise the interest in research conducted within our field and will interact with it. We must not slacken in the endeavours already launched, and we must realise that much still remains to be done.


9Although the symposium was primarily funded by the sponsoring institutions from their operating funds, and by participants’ fees, grants were gratefully received from Aix-Marseille University through its Fond Incitatif à la Recherche (FIR), the LabexMed – Social Sciences and Humanities at the Heart of Multidisciplinarity for the Study of the Mediterranean, the Région Sud Provence-Alpes-Côtes d’Azur, the Département des Bouches du Rhône, the Métropole Aix-Marseille-Provence and the Ville de Marseille.

10The organising committee is also grateful to Jean-Christophe Sourisseau, director, Laurent Borel, Gracinda Das Neves, Loïc Damelet, Anton Divić, Alba Ferreira Dominguez, Vincent Dumas, Cristel Lanata, Lionel Roux, Alex Sabastia of the Centre Camille Jullian; Sophie Bouffier, director, and Sylvie Laurens-Aubry of the Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l’Homme; Michel L’Hour, director, and the staff of the Département des recherches archéologiques subaquatiques et sous-marines (DRASSM); Jean-François Chougnet, president, Myriam Morel-Deledalle, Anne Faure, Pascale Fabre, Aude Fanlo, and Eric Moncho of the Musée des Civilisations de ­l’Europe et de la Méditerranée; Claude Sintès, director, Sabrina Marlier of the Musée départemental d’Arles antique; Fabrice Denise, director, and Xavier Corré of the Musée d’Histoire de Marseille; Alison Cathie, chair, and the Trustees of the Honor Frost Foundation that awarded bursaries to enable ten young researchers and advanced students to attend the ISBSA 15; Mourad El Amouri and the cooperative Ipso Facto-Bureau d’Étude et de Recherche for its support in the organisation and navigation of Gyptis and other traditional boats; Pierre Sathal, director of the Société Nautique de Marseille, and Pascal Borel, vice-president of the Voiles du Vieux-Port; A. D’Agaro and the Direction de la Valorisation of Aix-Marseille University, and the students of the Master of Maritime and Coastal Archaeology (MoMarch), Ninon Basuau, Nazim Bensalah, Jeanne Bordé, Alison Fayot, Léo Fernandez, Aurélien Lacroix, Coralie Perrin, Ivan Vidulić, for their precious help in organising and managing the symposium.

11The organising committee in Aix-en-Provence greatly appreciated the assistance and advice of several previous ISBSA organizers, Nergis Güsenin (Istanbul 2009), André Van Holk (Amsterdam 2012) and Jerzy Litwin (Gdańsk).

12Finally, the editors of this volume are particularly indebted to Colin Clement who took care of English translation and editing, Marie-Brigitte Carre, editor in chief, and CNRS éditions who accepted to publish and distribute the present volume of proceedings in the Archaeonautica collection.

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Titre Participants of the fifteenth International Symposium on Boat and Ship Archaeology (ISBSA 15)
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Giulia Boetto, Patrice Pomey et Pierre Poveda, « Preface »Archaeonautica, 21 | 2021, 19-20.

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Giulia Boetto, Patrice Pomey et Pierre Poveda, « Preface »Archaeonautica [En ligne], 21 | 2021, mis en ligne le 01 juillet 2022, consulté le 09 décembre 2023. URL : ; DOI :

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Giulia Boetto

CNRS, Aix Marseille University, Centre Camille Jullian, MMSH, 5 rue du Château de l’Horloge CS 90412, 13097 Aix-en-Provence France cedex 2

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Patrice Pomey

CNRS, Aix Marseille University, Centre Camille Jullian, MMSH, 5 rue du Château de l’Horloge CS 90412, 13097 Aix-en-Provence France cedex 2

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Pierre Poveda

CNRS, Aix Marseille University, Centre Camille Jullian, MMSH, 5 rue du Château de l’Horloge CS 90412, 13097 Aix-en-Provence France cedex 2

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