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Wooden model
The Uluburun Shipwreck is a well-documented late 14th century BC shipwreck of the Late Bronze Age period, discovered off the south coast of Turkeymarker in the Mediterranean Seamarker near the city of Kaşmarker in the province of Antalyamarker. 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. As of 1984 it is the oldest intact shipwreck.

The vessel

real-size replica

Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology, Bodrum, Turkey
The wreck represents a merchant ship of Near Eastern, probably Cypriotmarker 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 Phoenicianmarker, 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. 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, Ugaritmarker, and Byblosmarker. Others of similar type have been found at the Cape Gelidonya shipwreck and in Kitionmarker on Cyprusmarker.


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 Miletusmarker. 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 derivedfrom just two poorly preserved pieces of cargo/dunnage wood from the famousUluburun 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 Cyprusmarker (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.


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 Spainmarker (Tarshish), or from Afghanistanmarker. These copper and tin ingots constitute the largest collection of Bronze Age ingots found on a single site

Finished goods:-
  • Faience vessels.
  • Ivory vessels.
  • A gold chalice.
  • Gold and silver jewellery: earrings, ring for fingers.
  • Cypriotmarker 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:- A stone ceremonial axe comes from Bulgariamarker 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 Greecemarker. They might be trade goods of the sailors or merchants.

The metal and the luxury goods may have been royal gifts or tribute.


The excavation of the Uluburun wreck was directed by George Bass and Cemal Pulak of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology between 1984 and 1994. The stern of the ship was at 44 m and the bow at 52 m depth. Some of the cargo had been scattered to a depth of over 60 m.

See also


External links

Further reading

  • Bahn, P. 100 Great Archaeological Discoveries, Paul Bahn, Ed., with/ Barnes, G; Bird, C; Bogucki, P; Duke, P; Edens, C; Gill, D; Hoffecker, J; Mee, C; Schreiber, K; Snape, S; Stone, A; Tarlow, S; and Thackeray, A; (Barnes & Noble Books, New York; Wiedenfield & Nicolson Ltd, Orion House, London), c 1995. No. 42, The Ulu Burun Shipwreck, by Dr. Christopher Mee, School of Archaeology, University of Liverpool, England.
  • Cemal Pulak, "The Uluburun Shipwreck: An Overview", The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 27.3 (1998), pp.188-224.
  • S. Sherratt, "Circulation of metals and the end of the Bronze Age in the Eastern Mediterranean", in: C F E Pare (ed.) Circulation of Metals in Bronze Age Europe, Oxford 2000, pp.82 ff.
  • Cemal Pulak, "Balance weights from the Late Bronze Age shipwreck at Uluburun" in: C F E Pare (ed.) Circulation of Metals in Bronze Age Europe, Oxford, 2000.

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