Abstract: A Seventh-Century Byzantine Shipwreck Excavated at the Theodosian Harbor at Yenikapı in Istanbul, Turkey


Since 2004, the Istanbul Archaeological Museums have been conducting salvage excavations in the Yenikapı district of Istanbul, Turkey, in preparation for the construction of the Marmaray Rail Tunnel, which will connect the continents of Europe and Asia.  This urban excavation, located in the heart of Istanbul’s old city, has yielded tens of thousands of artifacts, ranging in date from the Neolithic to late Ottoman periods.  Some of the most significant finds are those of the Byzantine period Theodosian Harbor (Portus Theodosiacus); in addition to harbor installations, loose ship timbers and ship’s equipment, 36 shipwrecks, of 5th to 11th century AD date, have been excavated.  Eight of the shipwrecks from Yenikapı are being studied by a team of archaeologists under the directorship of Dr. Cemal Pulak of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA) at Texas A&M University. 

The date range of ships from the site coincides with an extended period of profound change in Mediterranean shipbuilding, during which shell-first construction was replaced by skeleton-first construction.  Although this progression is not yet fully understood, due in part to the limited number of thoroughly-documented hulls from this period, the many well-preserved vessels from Yenikapı promise to contribute new ideas as well as provide a large body of material on which established theories of medieval ship construction may be tested.  This presentation will focus on one vessel in particular, a small, seventh-century Byzantine merchantman found at Yenikapı.  This heavily repaired, pine-built ship represents a relatively early phase in the shell- to skeleton-first transition and is providing new insights into ship construction and maintenance in a period of widespread change.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Ingram, R., and M. Jones.  2011.  “Yenikapı—Documenting Two Byzantine Merchant Ships from the Yenikapı Excavations in Istanbul, Turkey.”  The INA Annual 2010:  8-17.

Pulak, C.  2007.  “Yenikapı Byzantine Shipwrecks.”  In Istanbul:  8000 Years Brought to Daylight.  Marmaray, Metro, Sultanahmet Excavations, 202-15.  Istanbul:  Vehbi Koç Foundation.


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