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The Uluburun Shipwreck is a well-documented late 14th century BC shipwreck of the Late Bronze Age period, discovered off the south coast of Turkey in the Mediterranean Sea near the city of Kaş in the province of Antalya. A Turkish sponge diver found it in 1982. It was recovered using techniques of underwater excavation in 11 consecutive campaigns of 3-4 months duration each from 1984 to 1994.

The vessel
real-size replica
Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology, Bodrum, TurkeyThe wreck represents a merchant ship of Near Eastern, probably Cypriot or Levantine, origin.

The ship was about 15 m long and could stow ca. 20 tons of cargo. The hull had been badly damaged, but some parts are preserved, partly by the corrosion products of the copper ingots. The hull was made of cedar wood of edge-joined planks (shell-based method of shipbuilding), a technique known from later Phoenician, Greek and Roman ships as well. Fragments of oars have been found; the largest was still 1.7 m long and 7 cm thick.

The ship had at least 24 stone anchors on board, weighting between 120-210 kg, with two smaller ones of only 16-21 kg weight. [3] Some of the anchors seem to have been spares and served to keep the ship balanced as well. Anchors of the single-hole Ulu Burun type are frequent on the Levantine coast, for example in Tell Abu Hawam, Ugarit, and Byblos. Others of similar type have been found at the Cape Gelidonya shipwreck and in Kition on Cyprus.

Dating
The ship has been dated to the late Bronze Age. In 1996, Cemal Pulak in "Dendrochronological Dating of the Uluburun Ship" dated the component parts of it to trees felled around 1400 BCE. But he further reported, from Kuniholm, that firewood stored aboard came from a tree felled 1316-1305 BCE - which must be the time of its last voyage.

The latter, later date would agree well with the finds made aboard. To give one dramatic example, the Mycenaean ware therein is of the LHIIIA:2 type, also found in Mursilis II's destruction layer of Miletus. According to that Hittite king's annals, this raid occurred a few years prior to an "omen of the sun" commonly called "Mursili's eclipse", 1312 BCE.

However, in Science 21 Dec 2001, Kuniholm retracted his dating of the dunnage: "Caution should be exercised concerning a previously stated date derived from just two poorly preserved pieces of cargo/dunnage wood from the famous Uluburun shipwreck (refs). The quality and security of the dendrochronological placement of these samples versus the Bronze-Iron master chronology are not especially strong." (S. W. Manning, Kromer, B., Kuniholm, P., I., Newton, M. W., 2001; Anatolian Tree Rings and a New Chronology for the East Mediterranean Bronze-Iron Ages.)

Apparent route
One opinion is that the ship was outbound from Cyprus (parts of which, at least, were then known as Alashiya), and carried a consignment of 6 tons of copper ingots (from the copper mines of Cyprus, verified by analysis).

The nationality of the ship has not been determined, since the articles carried were Mycenaean, Cypriot, Canaanite, Kassite, Egyptian, and Assyrian.

Judging from the vast wealth of the cargo (more than 18,000 catalogued artifacts were raised from the seabed), it has also been offered that the vessel may have been bound for the Nile River, which was at the time a remarkable center of trade. Yet another opinion states that the cargo may have comprised offerings to Egyptian Pharaohs.

Cargo
The ship carried:-

354 (ca. 10 tons) of copper ingots in the typical oxhide-shape (a shape which allows it to be easily carried on the backs of horses or mules), originally stacked in four rows.
At least 40 tin ingots, which contain very little lead. The source of the tin is still a matter of debate, but it might have come from Spain (Tarshish), or from Afghanistan. These copper and tin ingots constitute the largest collection of Bronze Age ingots found on a single site

Egyptian jewelry
1. gold disk-shaped pendant 2. gold falcon pendant 3. gold goddess pendant 4. faience beads 5. rock crystal beads 6. agate beads 7. faience beads 8. ostrich eggshell beads 9. silver bracelets 10. gold scrap 11. gold chalice 12. accreted mass of tiny faience beads 13. silver scrapUnworked glass.
Egyptian ebony, for furniture.
Ingots of "blue glass", for faience or glass inlay.
Elephant ivory, and hippopotamus ivory, for furniture, inlay, plaques, etc.
Amber
Ostrich eggs
Gold
1 ton of terebinth resin, for perfumes, in Canaanite jars.
Food: acorns, almonds, figs, olives, pomegranates.
Finished goods:-

Faience vessels.
Ivory vessels.
A gold chalice.
Gold and silver jewellery: earrings, rings for fingers.
Cypriot ring base bowls and white slip bowls.
One large jar of carefully packed Cypriot pots.
Wide mouthed jugs.
Clay lamps.
Large pithoi.
A collection of bronze tools: perhaps the equipment of the ship's carpenter.
A bronze pin with globular head, thought to have a central European origin.
A gold scarab bearing the name of Nefertiti, wife of the pharaoh Akhenaten.
Weapons:-

6 European-type spearheads (Bouzek type A2 or B3), that have parallels in the Eastern Alps and Italy.
A sword of Italian origin.
A stone ceremonial axe comes from Bulgaria or the Carpathian Basin.

The Cypriot ring base bowls and white slip bowls are also found in the Levant, Egypt, central parts of the Hittite Empire and in Mycenaean palaces in Greece. They might be trade goods of the sailors or merchants.

 

 


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