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The Bronze Age Shipwreck at Sheytan Deresi

Alexis Catsambis
Thesis: May 2008
Chair: Pulak
Nautical Archaeology Program

During the fall of 1973, the newly formed (American) Institute of Nautical Archaeology conducted its first systematic underwater survey of the southwestern coast of Turkey with the goal of locating the first shipwreck to be subsequently excavated by the Institute. Of the 18 wreck sites identified during the survey, a site off Sheytan Deresi (Devil’s Creek) proved to be the one that attracted George Bass, director of the survey, as most meriting further study. During the excavation that followed in September and October 1975, the site produced a number of complete and fragmentary ceramic vessels that formed the main artifact assemblage.

Although the ceramic vessels brought to light at Sheytan Deresi have been studied by George Bass, Roxani Margariti and others since the 1975 excavation, locating precise parallels for the assemblage proved a difficult task and resulted in a less than full understanding of the site.

The following thesis represents a renewed effort to answer a number of questions still surrounding the Sheytan Deresi site. In addition to expanding the extensive search for parallels undertaken by Bass and Margariti, recent research has involved a number of scientific analyses, including petrographic analysis of the ceramic assemblage, luminescence dating of ceramic fragments, and elemental examination of the fabric through neutron activation analysis and energy dispersive spectroscopy. The use of three-dimensional modeling has been adopted for the purposes of site interpretation.

Although the impact of this more holistic approach cannot be entirely foreseen at this time, a number of interesting hypotheses regarding the site can now be suggested. It appears that the ceramic assemblage, which is now conclusively of a single origin, may be of a specialized maritime nature, and likely belongs to the Middle Bronze Age, reminiscent of, but entirely similar to, regional types of Anatolian and Cretan vessels. These tentative conclusions, as well as an examination of the site itself, suggest that the (Minoanizing) ceramic assemblage of Sheytan Deresi stood witness to a fairly small Middle Bronze Age coastal trading vessel that capsized rounding a dangerous cape, not far from its point of origin.

We are still not in a position to fully comprehend the wrecking event that took place at Sheytan Deresi, but we are now firmly on course towards reaching that objective.

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