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Michael Alexander Arbuthnot (born 8 June 1974) is an archaeologist, instructor and archaeological film-maker.
Michael A. Arbuthnot received his Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy and minor in Anthropology from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1996. He holds a Master’s Degree in Anthropology from Florida State University. He specialized in underwater archaeology and graduated Magna Cum Laude.
Arbuthnot is an active member in many professional organizations, including: the Registry of Professional Archaeologists (RPA); the Florida Archaeological Council (FAC); the Southeastern Archaeological Conference (SEAC); the Florida Anthropological Society (FAS); the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS); and the St. Augustine Archaeological Association (SAAA).
In addition to being the author of many published articles and papers, Arbuthnot is considered an authority on submerged prehistoric sites. He focused his thesis on paleo-environmental change and the impact it has on archaeological sites in the Gulf of Mexico.
Arbuthnot’s research has been presented at many conferences, including the Society for American Archaeology, the Northeast Florida Symposium on Underwater Archaeology, the annual meeting of the Florida Anthropological Society, and the Southeastern Archaeological Conference. The results of his research in the Caribbean are now exhibited at the George Town Museum on Grand Cayman Island.
Michael Arbuthnot is currently a faculty member at Flagler College, located in historic downtown St. Augustine, Florida. There, he teaches his students about the fascinating world of archaeology, which included a field expedition to the RMS Titanic. He hopes to set aside the boring impression people have of archaeology, saying, “People have this idea of archaeologists sitting there with a brush and a toothpick, but it can be exciting.”
Arbuthnot’s trip to the Titanic took him 12,600 feet below the ocean’s surface. James Cameron, the producer, writer, and director of the movie “Titanic” recruited Arbuthnot in 2005 to work on the first systematic archeological survey of Titanic’s internal bow structure. Findings from this survey were shown in the Discovery Channel special “Last Mysteries of the Titanic” and will exhibited as part of the Titanic Legacy Database Project presently in development with the non-profit digital historic preservation organization, CyArk.
Arbuthnot founded Team Atlantis Productions in 1996. The name, of course, is a play on the mythical underwater city of Atlantis. Arbuthnot defines Team Atlantis, saying, “TA is a multi-disciplinary outfit whose mission is to explore archeological mysteries with an emphasis on those enigmas associated with underwater contexts.” Because underwater archeological sites usually have some connection with sites on land, Team Atlantis is not restricted to only underwater locations.
Team Atlantis has explored and surveyed many sites around the world, including:
Team Atlantis Productions plan to open the eyes of the public to archaeological mysteries off the coast of San Diego through their show, “La Jolla’s Sunken City.” Michael Arbuthnot, the Writer/Producer of the show, paired with Director/Editor David Faires, to take underwater cinematography to new depths.
“Not only is Mike Arbuthnot the Writer/Producer, but he is rapidly becoming one of the most recognizable archaeologists in the United States. As a young professional archaeologist and former college professor, Arbuthnot has been featured on ABC, Discovery Channel and the Learning Channel. Most recently Arbuthnot conducted the first archaeological survey of the famous shipwreck R.M.S. Titanic with film maker and explorer James Cameron on Discovery Channel’s televised event, Last Mysteries of the Titanic. He continues to excite audiences and historians alike by blending ancient history and archaeology with filmmaking.”
As stated previously, artifacts were first found in the early 1900s. Children would return to the shore from playing in the shallow water with small stone bowls. Scuba diving became increasingly popular in the 1950s, leading to more exploring around La Jolla. Due to this exploration, more than 2000 artifacts have been recovered. Some date to more than 5000 years ago. At least 34 submerged sites have been discovered in places as deep as 30 meters. Some scientists believe that La Jolla is an entire sunken village. In “La Jolla’s Sunken City,” Arbuthnot and Faires explore several hypotheses concerning how these objects were originally deposited, and they reveal never before seen artifacts.
Arbuthnot had trouble at the beginning of the expedition, but was eventually successful in finding artifacts at La Jolla. According to the CineForm article on La Jolla: Their success was aided by the help of a small octopus. A diver was tracking it, when the octopus stopped behind a round stone. This ‘stone’ turned out to be a beautiful stone bowl, which eventually led the team to discovering a total of six artifacts in 20 feet of water. Arbuthnot speculates that these ancient finds date to between 4,000 and 7,000 years ago!
Arbuthnot has worked on underwater archaeology projects in Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, and the Caribbean since 1997. He has surveyed, mapped, excavated, interpreted and analyzed artifacts, and published reports on a variety of diverse archaeological sites. He continues his work, based mainly in Florida. He also functions as Newsletter Editor for the Florida Archaeological Council.
Arbuthnot presently serves as Assistant Vice President and Division Manager of Archaeology, dive supervisor, and principal investigator for underwater archaeological projects at Environmental Services, Inc. (esinc.cc), a significant cultural resource company in Florida.
Arbuthnot's documentary Secret Worlds with Mike Arbuthnot began airing on the travel channel in 2010.