The Kızılburun Shipwreck

Kim Rash

The Roman emperor Augustus claimed to have found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble. Indeed, the remains of more than a dozen stone cargoes in the shallow waters off Italy, France, and Spain attest to the Roman appetite for specialty stones – white marble from Greece and Asia Minor; yellow marble from Numidia; red and gray granite from Egypt.

The vast majority of these cargoes, however, have not been treated as coherent archaeological sites; instead they are only superficially explored, their stones partly or wholly salvaged. As a result, archaeologists know regrettably little about the construction and lading of ancient stone carriers, which must represent some of the most sophisticated technological achievements of the ancient world.

Since 2005, an international team of archaeologists, staff members of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology, and graduate students from the Nautical Archaeology Program at Texas A&M University have been pursuing the excavation of a Roman stone carrier wrecked off the Aegean coast of Turkey southwest of Izmir at Kızılburun ("Crimson Cape"). This ship was transporting all the elements of a monumental marble column, in the form of eight individual drums and a single Doric capital. INA president Dr. Donny Hamilton serves as the project director, and assistant professor at Texas A&M University Dr. Deborah Carlson as the team’s archaeological director. The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism was represented at Kızılburun by Ilker Tepeköy in 2005, Sinem Özongan in 2006, and Gülnaz Savran in 2007. The team spent the 2008 season researching and writing in Bodrum, and returned to conclude the excavations in the summer of 2009.


Yenikapı Byzantine Shipwrecks

Kim Rash

The Yenikapı site, located in the Istanbul neighborhood of the same name, was first revealed in 2004 during the construction of a subterranean rail line and station for a new rail link between Europe and Asia. Archaeologists from the Istanbul Archaeological Museums quickly realized they were looking at the ancient harbor of Theodosius, one of Constantinople's trade harbors, built during the reign of Theodosius (AD 379-395). A major trade center from the 4th century until river silt filled it in around 1500, the harbor, its stone walls, and amazingly well-preserved remnants of the port’s activities lay forgotten for centuries.

Istanbul Archaeological Museums turned to Istanbul University’s Conservation Department to deal with most of the ship remains, but eight hulls dating from the 7th to the 11th centuries were turned over to INA Vice President and Texas A&M University professor Dr. Cemal Pulak. With his characteristic attention to detail and meticulous scholarship, Cemal, archaeologist Sheila Matthews and a hard working team of INA staff and Texas A&M graduate students worked for over two years in the heat and mud of the active construction site in tent-covered pits to document and carefully recover the ship remains. While many of the timbers are well preserved, with original tool marks and intricate detail, they can also be very fragile, with the consistency of wet cardboard. It makes the job even more challenging, and yet the patience and persistence of Cemal’s team made a difference.


The Danaos Project

Kim Rash

The Danaos Project is a collaborative endeavor between the Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA) at Texas A&M University, the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR) and the Hellenic Institute for Ancient and Medieval Alexandrian Studies (HIAMAS), directed by Dr. Shelley Wachsmann

The project’s aim is to investigate evidence of maritime contacts and trade routes between the Aegean world and Egypt in antiquity, as well as Crete’s role in Mediterranean trade throughout history. The geographic focus of our investigation is the deep seabed between Crete and Egypt, where we hypothesize that numerous prehistoric and historic shipwrecks have come to rest. Our investigative tools include HCMR’s research vessel Aegaeo and its various remote sensing instruments, including sonars, remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs) and the submersible Thetis.

The name of the project is taken from the Greek mythological figure Danaos, who was reported in antiquity to be the builder of the first ship (or one of the first ships), the inventor (or at least one of the inventors) of navigation, and the father of fifty daughters (the Danaides) who moved between Egypt and Argos.


A Classical Greek Shipwreck at Tektaş Burnu

Tektas Burnu

For three summers between 1999 and 2001, INA sponsored the excavation of a Classical Greek shipwreck off the Turkish coast at Tektaş Burnu. The excavation was supervised by Director George Bass and Assistant Director Deborah Carlson, and staffed by a fabulous team of students, professionals, and volunteers from Turkey, the U.S., Canada, Spain, the U.K., Holland, Israel, and Australia.

The wreck, which lies along a rugged and remote stretch of coastline southeast of Çesme and west of Sigacik, was located in 1996 during one of INA’s annual survey for shipwrecks. The name of the site, Turkish for “cape of the lone rock,” is derived from the large island of Tektaş Ada, which is located just off the coast, some 100 yards south of the wrecksite. Tektaş Burnu could easily be described as one of the most inhospitable and unforgettable places in the Mediterranean. The cliffs above the wrecksite consist of jagged spires of friable rock; during early visits to the site we found it difficult, if not impossible, to come ashore on foot. During the summer, the site is completely exposed to the northwesterly meltem winds, which often blow all afternoon, and reach gale force during the night. Many nights we lay awake wondering if our little cabanas would be able to withstand the relentless wind.  Dr. Carlson hopes to have the final publication out shortly.

  The Bronze Age Shipwreck at Uluburun

The Institute of Nautical Archaeology's (INA) shipwreck excavation between 1984 and 1994 under the directon of Dr. George Bass and Dr. Cemal Pulak at Uluburun, near Kas in southern Turkey, brought to light one of the wealthiest and largest known assemblages of Late Bronze Age items found in the Mediterranean. The shipwreck lay on a steep rocky slope at a depth of 44 to 52 m, with artifacts scattered down to 61 m.

The ship's cargo, perhaps a royal one, comprised mostly raw materials but manufactured goods were also present. The main cargo was approximately 10 tons of what appears to be primarily Cypriot copper in the form of 354 flat, usually four-handled rectangular oxhide ingots, and about 120 discoid "bun," or piano-convex ingots. Also on board was a ton of the earliest securely dated tin ingots in both bun and four-handled oxhide shapes. Dendrochronological dating of a small piece of presumably fresh-cut firewood or dunnage suggests a date of 1306 B.C.E., or sometime shortly thereafter, for the sinking of the ship.

Numerous articles have been published on the Uluburun wreck to date, and many are to come, including the final publication.


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