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A Re-Assembly and Reconstruction of the 9th-Century A.D. Vessel Wrecked off the coast of Bozburun, Turkey

Matthew Benjamin Harpster
Dissertation: August 2005
Chair:  Pulak




    In 1973, researchers from the Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA) were led to the site of a wrecked ship by sponge diver Mehmet Ask1n, near his hometown of Bozburun, Turkey. During further monitoring over the following 21 years by INA, the site was identified as a merchant vessel dating from the 9th century AD. The excavation of the site by INA researchers and students from Texas A&M University occurred over four summer seasons, from 1995 to 1998, and yielded approximately 900 whole or nearly-whole amphorae, personal items, palynological material, and approximately 35 percent of the vessel's wooden hull. This dissertation is a record of the curation, cataloging, analysis and re-assembly of the preserved elements of the Bozburun vessel's hull, as well as a theoretical reconstruction of the entire vessel. The Bozburun vessel is unique as it is the only fully-excavated shipwreck from the 9th century AD, and is, indeed, a valuable source of examples of ship construction in the Mediterranean between the 7th and the 11th centuries AD. This dissertation, after discussing the methods of excavation and cataloging methods, posits the hypothesis that the techniques used to build this vessel represent a transitional stage in shipbuilding technology, combining distinctly old and new techniques. While the builders used embedded edge joinery in the ship's planking, a very old method, they also appear to have used a conceptual framework and standards to design the vessel as well; methods evident in modified forms in Italian shipbuilding treatises from the Renaissance.

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