George Bass (archaeologist)

Last updated
George Bass
Born (1932-12-09) December 9, 1932 (age 87)
Alma mater
Scientific career
Fields underwater archaeology
Institutions Texas A&M University

George Fletcher Bass ( /bæs/ ; born December 9, 1932) is recognized as one of the early practitioners of underwater archaeology, along with Peter Throckmorton, Honor Frost, and others.



Bass was the co-director, alongside Joan du Plat Taylor, of the first archaeological expedition to entirely excavate an ancient shipwreck: Cape Gelidonya (1960). [1] [2] Since directing his first excavation as a PhD student, he has excavated shipwrecks of the Bronze Age, Classical Age, and the Byzantine. Bass is professor emeritus at Texas A&M University, where he held the George T. and Gladys H. Abell Chair in Nautical Archaeology. He holds an M.A. in Near Eastern Archaeology from The Johns Hopkins University and a Ph.D. in Classical Archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1966, Froelich Rainey, director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, authorized Bass to write a report on the Penn Museum's controversial accession of a set of gold objects believed to have come from the site of Troy, in what is now Turkey. The museum had purchased the gold from a private antiquities dealer. Bass, who at the time was assistant curator in the Mediterranean Section, wrote a report which influenced the museum's articulation of a statement on museum ethics. This was the Pennsylvania Declaration of 1970, which anticipated UNESCO's subsequent issue of the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership and Cultural Property.

In 1973 Bass founded the Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA). [3]



Bass was interviewed by Adam Davidson with colleague Fred van Doorninck on This American Life in 2010. [8]


Related Research Articles

Maritime archaeology archaeological study of human interaction with the sea

Maritime archaeology is a discipline within archaeology as a whole that specifically studies human interaction with the sea, lakes and rivers through the study of associated physical remains, be they vessels, shore-side facilities, port-related structures, cargoes, human remains and submerged landscapes. A specialty within maritime archaeology is nautical archaeology, which studies ship construction and use.

Underwater archaeology Archaeological techniques practiced at underwater sites

Underwater archaeology is archaeology practiced underwater. As with all other branches of archaeology, it evolved from its roots in pre-history and in the classical era to include sites from the historical and industrial eras. Its acceptance has been a relatively late development due to the difficulties of accessing and working underwater sites, and because the application of archaeology to underwater sites initially emerged from the skills and tools developed by shipwreck salvagers. As a result, underwater archaeology initially struggled to establish itself as bona fide archaeological research. The situation changed when universities began teaching the subject and when a theoretical and practical base for the sub-discipline was firmly established. Underwater archaeology now has a number of branches including, after it became broadly accepted in the late 1980s, maritime archaeology: the scientifically based study of past human life, behaviours and cultures and their activities in, on, around and (lately) under the sea, estuaries and rivers. This is most often effected using the physical remains found in, around or under salt or fresh water or buried beneath water-logged sediment. In recent years, the study of submerged WWII sites and of submerged aircraft in the form of underwater aviation archaeology have also emerged as bona fide activity.

Cape Gelidonya

Cape Gelidonya, formerly Kilidonia or Killidonia is a cape or headland on the Teke Peninsula in the chain of Taurus Mountains, located on the southern coast of Anatolia between the Gulf of Antalya and the Bay of Finike.

Uluburun shipwreck late Bronze Age shipwreck

The Uluburun Shipwreck is a Late Bronze Age shipwreck dated to the late 14th century BC, discovered close to the east shore of Uluburun, and about 6 miles (9.7 km) miles southeast of Kaş, in south-western Turkey. The shipwreck was discovered in the summer of 1982 by Mehmed Çakir, a local sponge diver from Yalıkavak, a village near Bodrum.

The Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA) is the world's oldest organization devoted to the study of humanity's interaction with the sea through the practice of archaeology.

Bodrum Castle fortification

Bodrum Castle is a historical fortification located in southwest Turkey in the port city of Bodrum, built from 1402 onwards, by the Knights of St John as the Castle of St. Peter or Petronium. A transnational effort, it has four towers known as the English, French, German, and Italian towers, bearing the names of the nations responsible for their construction. The castle was completed in the late 15th century, only to be taken over by the Islamic Ottoman Empire in 1523. The chapel was converted to a mosque, and a minaret was added. The castle remained under the empire for almost 400 years. After remaining empty following World War I, in the early 1960s, the castle became the home for the award-winning Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology. In 2016 it was inscribed in the Tentative list of World Heritage Sites in Turkey.

Nautical Archaeology Society British organisation to further research in nautical archaeology for the public benefit

The Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) is a charity registered in England and Wales and in Scotland and is a company limited by guarantee.

David Gibbins is an underwater archaeologist and a bestselling novelist.

Archaeology of shipwrecks Study of human activity through the analysis of shipwreck artifacts

The archaeology of shipwrecks is the field of Archaeology specialized most commonly in the study and exploration of shipwrecks. Its techniques combine those of archaeology with those of diving to become Underwater archaeology. However, shipwrecks are discovered on what have become terrestrial sites.

James Preston Delgado, Ph.D. is a maritime archaeologist, historian, maritime preservation expert, author, television host, and explorer.

E. Lee Spence Underwater archaeologist

Edward Lee Spence is a pioneer in underwater archaeology who studies shipwrecks and sunken treasure. He is also a published editor and author of non-fiction reference books; a magazine editor, and magazine publisher ; and a published photographer. Spence was twelve years old when he found his first five shipwrecks.

Edgerton Alvord Throckmorton, known as Peter Throckmorton, was an American photojournalist and a pioneer underwater archaeologist, frequently described as the Father of Underwater Archaeology. Throckmorton was a founding member of the Sea Research Society and served on its Board of Advisors until his death in 1990. He was also a trustee for NUMA and was an instructor at Nova Southeastern University.

Joan du Plat Taylor British archaeologist

Joan Mabel Frederica du Plat Taylor was a British archaeologist and pioneer of underwater nautical archaeology.

George R. Fischer American underwater archaeologist

George Robert Fischer was an American underwater archaeologist, considered the founding father of the field in the National Park Service. A native Californian, he did undergraduate and graduate work at Stanford University, and began his career with the National Park Service in 1959, which included assignments in six parks, the Washington, D.C. Office, and the Southeast Archaeological Center from which he retired in 1988. He began teaching courses in underwater archaeology at Florida State University in 1974 and co-instructed inter-disciplinary courses in scientific diving techniques. After retirement from the NPS his FSU activities were expanded and his assistance helped shape the university's program in underwater qrchaeology.

The Kizilburun shipwreck is an ancient Roman shipwreck in the Aegean that was discovered in 1993 by Dr. Cemal Pulak. The wreck itself is located just off the western coast of Turkey, near the island of Chios and the city of Çeçme. The coordinates of the wreck are 38.26075°N 26.24256°E. The ship itself was a Navis Lapidera, or Roman stone carrying ship. The wreck was found at a depth of 45–48 meters or around 150 feet.

The Nautical Archaeology Program (NAP) is a degree-granting program within the Anthropology Department at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.

Honor Frost Pioneer in underwater archaeology

Honor Frost was a pioneer in the field of underwater archaeology, who led many Mediterranean archaeological investigations, especially in Lebanon, and was noted for her typology of stone anchors and skills in archaeological illustration.

Yassi Ada

Yassi Ada is an island off the coast of Bodrum, Turkey. This area of the Mediterranean Sea is prone to strong winds, making a safe journey around the island difficult. The island could be called a ships' graveyard, on account of the number of wrecked ships off its southeastern tip. Three wreck sites have been excavated under the direction of George Bass of Texas A&M University. The first to be studied using archaeological techniques was a 4th-century Byzantine wreck, the second a 7th-century Byzantine wreck, and the third a 16th-century Ottoman wreck. Bass received funding for a summer excavation at the site from the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania and the National Geographic Society.

The Society for Underwater Historical Research (SUHR) was an amateur maritime archaeology organisation operating in South Australia (SA). It was formed in 1974 by recreational scuba divers and other persons to pursue an interest in maritime archaeology and maritime history. The SUHR was renamed as the South Australian Archaeology Society in March 2012 as part of a plan to expand its activities beyond maritime archaeology to include other archaeological disciplines.

Anna Marguerite McCann American art historian and archaeologist

Anna Marguerite McCann was an American art historian and archaeologist. She is known for being an early influencer—and the first American woman—in the field of underwater archaeology, beginning in the 1960s. McCann authored works pertaining to Roman art and Classical archaeology, and taught both art history and archaeology at various universities in the United States. McCann was an active member of the Archaeological Institute of America, and received its Gold Medal Award in 1998. She also published under the name Anna McCann Taggart.


  1. George Fletcher Bass (1967). Cape Gelidonya: a bronze age shipwreck. American Philosophical Society.
  2. Hirschfeld, Nicolle. "Joan Mabel Frederica du Plat Taylor, 1906–1983" (PDF). Breaking Ground: Women in Old World Archeology. Brown University. Retrieved April 24, 2020.
  3. George Fletcher Bass, Ph.D. Archived 2014-12-23 at the Wayback Machine
  4. Linda Ellis (16 December 2003). Archaeological Method and Theory: An Encyclopedia. Taylor & Francis. pp. 208–. ISBN   978-1-135-58283-8.
  5. "Awards and Prizes". Society for Historical Archaeology. Retrieved September 30, 2016.
  6. "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  7. National Science Foundation
  8. "Contents Unknown". This American Life . January 22, 2010. Retrieved January 29, 2014.