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A Preliminary Reconstruction of the Yassiada Sixteenth Century Ottoman Wreck

Matthew Labbe
Thesis: May 2010
Chair: Pulak
Nautical Archaeology Program


While excavating a late fourth-century Roman merchantman off the coast of Yassiada, Turkey in 1967, archaeologists discovered another, more recent wreck lying across the stern of the Roman wreck. The artifact assemblage, dendrochronology, and carbon-14 dating indicated that the wreck was of Ottoman origin and dated to the late sixteenth-century. In 1982 and 1983, archaeologists under the auspices of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University returned to the site to fully excavate the vessel and raise its timbers for detailed study and conservation at the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology in Turkey. The purpose of this thesis is to analyze the remains of the hull by building upon previous preliminary reconstruction efforts to determine the shipís intended form and function.

To accomplish this task, 1:10 scale drawings of the timbers were used to construct a half breadth model of the ship. By matching the nail holes on the recovered planking to the preserved remains of the shipís framing, it was possible to assess the hullís contours through transfer to a lines drawing. The resulting drawings show a moderately sized vessel with a wide flat bottom. In order to place the reconstruction into perspective, archaeological remains of similar shipwrecks and period iconography were consulted in order to suggest the shipís type and function. Four shipwrecks were found that have similar construction features to those on the Ottoman wreck. Three of the wrecks had the same unusual knuckle joints used in securing futtocks to frames that the Ottoman wreck has, shedding light on design and construction philosophy of ships in the eastern Mediterranean. The preliminary analysis of period iconography in conjunction with the remains of similar shipwrecks indicated that the vessel was a cargo carrier that may have ties to the Ottoman navy. Four types of ships from the same general period, the felluca, polacre, and shebek were found to have similar design features to the Ottoman wreck, but the closest iconographic parallel was the saique, which was a two-masted cargo carrier found in the Black Sea and the west coast of Turkey between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries.


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