Abstract: A Monumental Cargo: The Roman Column Wreck at Kizilburun, Turkey


Since 2005, the Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA) at Texas A&M University has been excavating the remains of a marble carrier wrecked off the Aegean coast of Turkey at Kizilburun.  The ship was transporting the components of a newly-quarried monumental column comprised of a single Doric capital and eight enormous unfluted drums, each about 1 ½ meters in diameter and over a meter tall.  Once assembled, the drums and capital would have formed a column nearly ten meters tall, weighing around 60 tons.  Isotopic and maximum grain-size analyses of the marble indicate an origin in the quarries of Proconnesus Island in the Sea of Marmara, while transport amphoras and associated ceramics suggest that the wreck dates from the first century B.C. 

 The findspot at Kizilburun constitutes important evidence for the use of Proconnesian marble outside of its local application in Pergamene and Troad building of the Hellenistic era.  The size of the drums suggests a supporting role for nothing smaller than a temple, while the presence of Doric architecture at this time – when Ionic and Corinthian were clearly the preferred orders – invites speculation about whether the column constituted a repair to an existing building or renewed work on an unfinished project. 

 In 2006, the team caught its first glimpse of the ship itself, preserved beneath more than 70 tons of stone cargo.  We accomplished this by carefully ballooning off-site four of the eight massive marble drums, weighing nearly 7 tons a piece.  As the excavation continues in 2007, one of our goals will be to study the wooden hull remains in order to gain insight into the vessel’s construction and determine whether or not this was a purpose-built stone carrier of the type the Romans called a navis lapidaria.    

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