Dan Davis

Dan stands inside an 11th-century well next to Herod’s great temple platform at Caesarea.

Associate Professor Dan Davis, a native of Des Moines, Iowa, has been at Luther since 2011. He teaches ancient Greek, Latin, and classical studies courses, including Greek and Roman archaeology, Greek and Roman civilization, ancient science, and marine archaeology. He also teaches in Luther’s first-year Paideia program. Dan is involved in three major archaeology projects.

Caesarea Maritima: Excavating in the City of Herod

Dan serves as senior staff archaeologist for the Caesarea City and Harbor Exploration Project (CCHEP). Since 2018 our team, directed by Dr. Joseph Rife and Dr. Phillip Lieberman of Vanderbilt University, has conducted intensive archaeological excavations of the north side of the Temple Platform and the south-central district of the decumanus maximus. This area was first occupied by Herod’s great Temple to Roma and Augustus and a dense adjacent neighborhood, then by an episcopal complex surrounding the Octagon, perhaps by the lost Great Mosque, and finally by a Fatimid souk. The project involves both Vanderbilt and Luther students, in addition to experts and volunteers from other schools and institutions around the world. For the archaeology fieldschool page, click here.

Ancient Shipwrecks in the Deep Sea

Dan Davis and Robert Ballard aboard the R/V Endeavor in the Black Sea.
Dan Davis and Robert Ballard aboard the R/V Endeavor in the Black Sea.

Between 2008 and 2013 Professor Davis served as a marine archaeologist for the E/V Nautilus expeditions, organized and led by Dr. Robert Ballard and Dr. Michael Brennan. Our survey areas included the Black Sea off Sinop (ancient Sinope) and Ereğli (ancient Heraclea Pontica), and the southeast Aegean off ancient Knidos—areas that witnessed high volumes of seaborne commercial traffic during antiquity and the Middle Ages. In that time we discovered and documented almost fifty shipwrecks that sank in deep water, thirty of which date between the 6th century B.C. and the 6th century A.D. The main search tool was the remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) Hercules. The team is now in the research and writing phase of the project. They have already published several articles in scientific journals:

Davis, D., A. Opaiţ, and M. L. Brennan. 2021. “The Sinop I Shipwreck: A Black Sea Merchant Ship from the Roman Imperial Era,” in J. Boardman, J. Hargrave, A. Avram, and A. Podossinov,eds. Connecting the Ancient West and East: Studies Presented to Gocha Tsetskhladze, 633-646. Leuven: Peeters.

Brennan, M. L., D. Davis, A. Opaiţ, and M. Stay. 2020. “Deep-Water Shipwrecks as a Microcosm of Late Roman Maritime Exchange in the Eastern Mediterranean.” Journal ofRoman Archaeology 33, 291-329.

Davis, D. and M.L. Brennan. 2020. “The Knidos Q and Marmaris D Shipwrecks: Two Small Vessels with Rhodian Pottery from the Late Ottoman Period.” International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 49.1, 194-202.

Opaiţ, A., D. Davis, M. L. Brennan, and M. Kofahl. 2019. “The Sinop F Shipwreck in the Black Sea: An International Cargo from Late Antiquity,” in H. Kaba, G. Kan Şahin, B. M. Akarsu, and O. Bozağlan, eds. Proceedings of the International Symposium on Sinope and the Black Sea Archaeology – Ancient Sinope and the Black Sea, 13-15 October 2017, Sinop, 77-89. Sinop.

Opaiţ, A., D. Davis, and M. L. Brennan, “Roman Commerce and Elite Markets in the Eastern Mediterranean: A Case Study of Three 2nd-Century Shipwrecks off Knidos,” in A. Avram, L. Buzoianu, and V. Lungu, eds. Koinè et mobilité artisanale entre la Méditerranée et la mer Noire dans l'Antiquité. Hommage à Pierre Dupont à son 70e anniversaire (Pontica LI, Suppl. V), 299-334. Constanţa: Musée d’Histoire Nationale et d’Archéologie.

Davis, D., M.L. Brennan, A. Opaiţ, and J. S. Beatrice. “The Ereğli E Shipwreck, Turkey: An Early Hellenistic Merchant Ship in the Black Sea.” International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 47.1, 57-80.

Brennan, M.L., D. Davis, R.D. Ballard, A.C. Trembanis, J.I. Vaughn, J.S. Krumholz, J.P. Delgado, C. Roman, C. Smart, K.L.C. Bell, M. Duman and C. DuVal. 2015. “Quantification of Bottom Trawl Fishing Damage to Ancient Shipwreck Sites.” Marine Geology 371, 82-88

Brennan, M.L., D. Davis, C. Roman, I.V. Buynevich, A. Catsambis, M. Kofahl, D. Urkmez, J. I. Vaughn, M. Merrigan, M. Duman. 2013. “Ocean Dynamics and Anthropogenic Impacts along the Southern Black Sea Shelf Examined through the Preservation of Pre-Modern Shipwrecks,” Continental Shelf Research 53, 89-101.

Recovering MIAs from America’s Wars

In 2019, Professor Davis was invited to serve as a Scientific Recovery Expert for the Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), whose mission it is to search for and locate American MIAs and POWs from conflicts around the world. Each summer, drawing on expertise in marine archaeology, he volunteers with DPAA-partner Project Recover and the University of Delaware to locate missing World War II aircraft underwater. The goal is to locate American service-members missing in action since World War II and repatriate their remains. These efforts, unique to the U.S., provide recognition and closure for families and the nation.