Abstract: Swimming with Amphoras: What Transport Containers Tell Us about the Kyrenia Ship

Lecturer: Susan Katzev

Visitors to the storeroom of the Kyrenia Ship excavation invariably ask us, “How could all these amphoras fit inside that small ship?” To answer that question members of the Kyrenia Ship Project set out to replicate all 378 amphoras, along with the 29 millstones carried in the open hold of the 14 meter/ 47 foot merchant ship.  We then sailed with them in the Cypriot replica “Kerynia Liberty” off  Limassol, Cyprus.

From this “Amphora Project” we learned efficient ways to make the jars, to stopper their mouths and load them into the ship’s hold.  We also learned, by swimming and diving with them, that the amphoras were almost certainly full when the ship went down.  In two experimental sailings it became clear that we had underestimated the height of the original ship and of her two modern sailing replicas. To be seaworthy while carrying the load with which she sank the ship would require higher planking. Now, reexamining the original full scale tracings of the ship’s timbers, reconstructor J. Richard  Steffy finally explained fastening peculiarities that had puzzled him for years. The ancient ship had indeed been heightened late in her life to become an amphora carrier. How the experiments unfolded will be told here.

Featured Lecturer

Molly Swetnam-Burland is the Department of Classical Studies at the College of William & Mary, and holds her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.  Her fields of interest are Roman art,... Read More

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