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The Ulu Burun Shipwreck: Underwater Archaeology At Its Finest

1545 words - 6 pages

Archaeology is a continuously evolving field where there is a constant stream of new branches and excavation methods. Due to the influx of new technologies and innovations in recent decades, archaeologists have been able to excavate previously inaccessible areas. For example, new diving equipment and tools such as proton magnetometers, side-scan sonar, sub-bottom profiler, and miniature submarines have allowed archaeologists to dive into the deep depths of the ocean. As a result, the branch of underwater archaeology was created to search for shipwrecks and other artifacts on the ocean floor. Underwater archaeology’s role has increased in recent years as it allows archaeologists to more accurately interpret the past by supplementing information gained through traditional land excavations.
A prime example of the possible contributions of underwater archaeology is the Ulu Burun shipwreck. The Ulu Burun shipwreck is the remains of a Late Bronze Age (~1600 – 1050 BCE) trading vessel dated to about 1300 BCE. The shipwreck was discovered in 1982 off the coast of Ulu Burun, near the modern city of Kas, Turkey. This fifty-foot long vessel was resting at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea at a depth of approximately 150 feet. Eleven sets of excavations were conducted from 1984 to 1994 in order to deliver the artifacts to the surface for analysis. From this wreck site, archaeologists now have a more detailed and precise understanding about the trade and distribution of commodities in the Late Bronze Age.
With very little textual information available from this time period, archaeologists knew very little about the items that were traded, cultures that traded with each other, and the trade routes. The Ulu Burun shipwrecks acts as a time capsule, which preserves many artifacts within a limited area where the ship sunk. The Ulu Burun ship was filled with a wide array of goods and trade items when it sank such as: gold pieces, copper and tin ingots, jars, swords, writing tablets, and food. Archaeologists noticed that these items did not come from a central location, but came from several specific locations. By analyzing the artifacts, archaeologists are able to determine which cultures came into contact and traded with each other. Through isotope analysis, it was determined that the copper ingots were from the island of Cyprus. The pottery was similar to those found throughout Canaan. Also in the wreck, there were logs of blackwood which grew in primarily Africa. There were also glass ingots that were the same as glass found in Egypt and Mycenaean Greece. In addition, there was ivory from elephants and hippopotamus primarily from Syria. Since all of these items were on one trading vessel, archaeologists were able to determine that there was “a vast trade network was well established among various racial and linguistic groups centered on the Mediterranean, from subtropical Africa and the Near East to northern Europe” (Bass 699). Therefore, underwater...

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