Jan 19, 2015

37 Shipwrecks at Istanbul Train Station Build Site

9th Century Merchant Ship
Since 2004, archaeologists from the Istanbul Archaeological Museums have discovered 37 shipwrecks during excavations in the Yenikapi district of Istanbul. In a new archaeological paper, eight of the wrecks that range from the 5th Century to the late 10th Century have been described. It is a find as spectacular as King Tutankhamen's tomb in the 1920s. Previously, historians had to rely upon studying ancient drawings and pictures of what ships of the period looked like. It began when Istanbul's new train station was to be built to ease the concentrated traffic there and become part of the rail system that connects between East and West. 
Byzantine Frescoe of Ship [Wikipedia Commons]

No other archaeological dig has revealed such a large number and types of well-preserved vessels at a single location, co-author of the paper, Dr. Cemal Pulak, associate professor at Texas A&M University's Institute of Nautical Archaeology.

The eight shipwrecks include six round ships and two long ships, or naval galleys. The other ships discovered in the district include small fishing boats, small- to mid-sized coasters, and a very large ocean-going merchantman.
Click on map to enlarge
Byzantine Empire, sometimes referred to the Eastern Roman Empire, was created by Constantine I [306-377] between 324 and 330, when the capital of Rome moved to Byzantium. It was Nova Rome [New Rome], later named Constantinople that would become the eastern Christian capital of the Roman Empire. In Constantinople, during the Fourth Crusade, the capital was sacked and the Empire dissolved and became divided. 
Byzantine Anchor
The Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire occurred in 1453. After that the name Constantinople was changed to Istanbul and the religion changed from Christianity to Islam. It is the largest city in Istanbul, but the capital city of the Republic of Turkey is Ankara. The Black Sea has revealed several ancient shipwreck sites that did not survive because of wood-devouring organisms, but the Istanbul find is the largest and best preserved because the harbor it was in had been buried under river silt.
The Byzantine Empire had a formidable navy and because of the location of Constantinople, it became a “maritime empire”. 
7th Century Byzantine Ship

Since the discovery in 2004, 37 shipwrecks have been unearthed dating from the 5th to the 11th centuries. Two of the ships were oared galleys a unique find in itself. A large museum in Istanbul is being planned to exhibit many of the 37 shipwrecks. The research paper was published about the latest news about the reconstruction in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology in 2014. Only fragments of Roman style ships are usually found. Eight Ottoman era shipwrecks were also found near Antalya. An ancient ship dating back 4,000 years was found in the Port of Uria near Izmir, Turkey. 
Site of Railway Station and Bosphorous Tunnel
 The proposed train station has been delayed because of the important archaeological discovery, but the construction is working around the dig.
The excavation began eight years ago on projects intended to ease Istanbul's notoriously clogged traffic.The job included building a tunnel under the Bosphorus Strait and linking it to a rail and subway network. When the dig was stopped several years ago, eyes rolled and shoulders shrugged. [NPR]

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