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The Glass Lamps from the 11th-Century Shipwreck at Serce Liman, Turkey

Margaret Morden
Thesis: May 1982
Chair: Bass
Nautical Archaeology Program

The glass lamps were recovered from an 11th-century shipwreck excavated by the Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA) and Texas A&M University during the summers of 1977 through 1979 at Serçe Liman, Turkey. This thesis presents an important new assemblage of medieval glass lamps within a geographically precise, well-dated archaeological context.

The lamps were found aft of midships as part of a cargo of broken glass and cullet being shipped to a glass factory for reuse. There are three types of lamps found on board: suspended lamps (98 examples), standing lamps (136 examples), and one mosque lamp. Not one of the catalogued pieces has a complete profile, but their distinctive shapes make them readily identifiable.

Glass has had a long history in the eastern Mediterranean, the earliest evidence for it having been found from the fourth millennium B.C. It remained a luxury item from then until the revolutionary invention of glass blowing during the time of the Roman Empire. The glass lamps belong to the tradition based on this new technology.

There is literary, artistic and archaeological evidence of glass lamps. The literary and artistic evidence is supplied primarily from religious sources. Glass lamps have been excavated at various sites in the eastern Mediterranean, most notably Jerash, Samarra, Karanis and Fustat. The origin of the cargo found at Serçe Liman, based on artistic and archaeological parallels for the lamps, is most probably the Syro-Palestinian coast and inland to the Caspian Sea; how the broken fragments were collected is as yet undetermined. The parallels range in date from the 6th to the 13th centuries A.C.

The thesis will be part of a larger study of the glassware recovered from the 11th-century shipwreck at Serçe Liman. The study of this glassware, which includes cups, tumblers, bowls, plates, pitchers, jugs, jars and bottles, is being conducted under the supervision of George F. Bass, the excavation director.

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