Yenikapı metro dig reveals fifth-century shipwreck

Yenikapı metro dig reveals fifth-century shipwreck

One of the shipwrecks found during the excavations carried out as part of the Marmaray project.

June 24, 2011, Friday/ 15:55:00

Archeological digs at Yenikapı, the site of excavations for an important transfer hub in İstanbul's metro system, the Marmaray project, have revealed yet another marvel: an intact shipwreck believed to be from the fifth century, complete with its load.

Researchers, who have been working on the site since 2004, are in the process of uncovering the well-preserved remains of the ship. One archeologist said this is probably the first time in the world that a shipwreck had been found with its full load and timber frame completely in tact.

“The width of the wreck is about five meters. This is one gunwale. There is probably another one which has not yet been uncovered. Some of the amphoras on top [of the cargo] are broken but those in the lower layers appear to be intact. This is the largest cargo ship yet to be uncovered. There is no other example in the world of a shipwreck where the timber of the ship as well as its load are in such good condition. If the wreck had been at sea, it would not have been this well preserved,” said archeologist Mehmet Ali Polat, quoted by the Radikal daily on Wednesday.

The wreck is among some 35 sunken ships at the old Byzantine harbor which had silted over, probably in the 10th century. The discovery of other Byzantine merchant ships has led this to be described as the greatest nautical archaeological site of all time. A collection of the discoveries has already been put together in an exhibition at the İstanbul Archaeological Museum, together with artifacts retrieved during other metro excavations around the city, including a hugely important find on the Asian side of the city at Üsküdar.

Archeologist Sırrı Çömlekçi was quoted in Radikal as saying that the remains from this Byzantine ship will provide a lot of information about the past.

“It will be possible to see the whole ship when we complete our work,” he said.

Zeynep Kızıltan, the head of the Marmaray-Metro Salvage Excavations, said that once the dig is complete, they look forward to sharing with the public all of the findings and their significance. She added in Radikal's report that the latest discovery seems to be quite unique. The dig is expected to continue through the end of summer.

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