Yenikapı Byzantine Shipwrecks Project
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WHAT: BYZANTINE SHIPWRECKS | WHERE: YENIKAPI, TURKEY | EXCAVATION: 2004-2013 | DATE OF WRECK: 5TH-11TH A.D.
The Yenikapı site, located in the Istanbul neighborhood of the same name, witnessed one of the world’s largest archaeological digs between 2004 and 2013. During the construction of a new subterranean rail line linking Europe and Asia, hundreds of laborers and archaeologists of the Istanbul Archaeological Museums exposed remains of over 8,000 years of the city’s history, ranging from Neolithic dwelling foundations and burials to Ottoman cisterns and workshops. Most of the finds, however, originated from Constantinople’s Theodosian Harbor, an artificial commercial harbor built during the reign of Byzantine emperor Theodosius I (AD 379-395). This harbor was extensively used from the 4th to 11th century AD, after which the effects of gradual siltation had rendered it accessible only to small watercraft. By the 16th century, the harbor was completely filled in, and its remains lay forgotten for centuries.
Thanks to the waterlogged anaerobic sediments that filled the harbor at Yenikapı, an impressive range of Byzantine finds were preserved at the site, including organic objects of wood, rope and leather, as well as pottery, bones, glass, coins, and other metalwork. In addition to hundreds of anchors and other items of ship’s equipment, archaeologists also uncovered 37 exceptionally well preserved shipwrecks of 5th- to 11th-century AD date. These include the first archaeological examples of Byzantine rowed ships or galleys—almost certainly warships—as well as merchant vessels, a few with undisturbed amphora cargoes.
The study of the Yenikapı shipwrecks was allocated to two groups, Istanbul University’s Conservation Department of Marine Archaeological Objects and the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University. After their documentation, reconstruction and conservation, these shipwrecks will be returned to Istanbul to be displayed in a planned museum at the Yenikapı site. INA Vice President and Texas A&M University professor Cemal Pulak currently directs the study and conservation of eight shipwreck hulls dating from the early 7th to late 10th century, four of which are housed at INA’s Bodrum Research Center. Pulak’s team, including nautical archaeologists Sheila Matthews, Rebecca Ingram, Michael Jones, and Orkan Köyağasıoğlu, along with other experienced archaeologists and graduate students, studied these eight vessels and today continue to research these unique finds.Selected Bibliography
Pulak, C., R. Ingram, and M. Jones. 2015. “Eight Shipwrecks from the Theodosian Harbour Excavations at Yenikapı in Istanbul, Turkey: An Introduction.” International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 44.1: 39-73.
Kocabaş, U. 2015. “The Yenikapı Byzantine-Era Shipwrecks, Istanbul, Turkey: A Preliminary Report and Inventory of the 27 Wrecks Studied by Istanbul University. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 44.1: 5-38.
Pulak, C., R. Ingram, and M. Jones. 2015. “The Shipwrecks at Yenikapı: Recent Research in Byzantine Shipbuilding.” In Tradition and Transition: Maritime Studies in the Wake of the Byzantine Shipwreck at Yassıada, Turkey. Proceedings of a Symposium Held at Texas A&M University, November 2-4, 2007, edited by D. N. Carlson, S. M. Kampbell, and J. Leidwanger. College Station: Texas A&M University Press.
C. Pulak, R. Ingram, and M. Jones. 2014. “Galleys and Merchantmen.” TINA Maritime Archaeology Periodical 1: 8-25.
Ingram, R. 2013. “Analysis and Reconstruction of Shipwreck YK 11 (c. Seventh Century A.D.) from the Theodosian Harbor at Yenikapı in Istanbul, Turkey.” Ph.D. Dissertation, Texas A&M University.
Jones, M. R. 2013. “The Recovery, Reconstruction, and Analysis of Yenikapı 14 (YK 14), a Middle Byzantine Merchant Ship from the Theodosian Harbor Excavations at Yenikapı, Istanbul.” Ph.D. Dissertation, Texas A&M University.
Pulak, C., R. Ingram, M. Jones, and S. Matthews. 2013. “The Shipwrecks of Yenikapı and Their Contribution to the Study of Ship Construction.” In Stories from the Hidden Harbor: Shipwrecks of Yenikapı, edited by Z. Kızıltan and G. Baran Çelik, 22-34. Istanbul: Istanbul Archaeological Museums/Vehbi Koç Vakfı.
Ingram, R., and M. Jones. 2012. “The Yenikapı Project: Continuing Research on Two Byzantine Shipwrecks from Constantinople’s Theodosian Harbor.” INA Annual 2011, 18-22.
Ingram, R., and M. Jones. 2012. “Yenikapı.” Dig! Magazine: Uncovered Boats Issue (April 2012), 8-11.
Ingram, R., and M. Jones. 2011. “Yenikapı: Documenting Two Byzantine Merchant Ships from the Yenikapı Excavations in Istanbul, Turkey.” INA Annual 2010: 8-17.
Ingram, R., and M. Jones. 2011. “Research on Two Byzantine Ships from Yenikapı, Istanbul: 2011 Season.” INA Quarterly 38: 24-5.
Ingram, R., and M. Jones. 2010. “The Documentation of Two Byzantine Shipwrecks from Yenikapı, Istanbul.” CMAC Journal 2.2: 28-30.
Ingram, R., and M. Jones. 2010. “Unlocking the Secrets of Constantinople’s Medieval Shipwrecks.” INA Quarterly 37.4:21.
Jones, M. 2015. “A Middle Byzantine Period Cargo Vessel from the Yenikapı Excavations in Istanbul: A Preliminary Analysis.” In Proceedings of the Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations’ Fifth Annual Symposium, “Istanbul and Water,” at Koç University, Istanbul, Turkey, 4-5 December 2010, edited by P. Magdalino and N. Ergin. Leuven: Peeters Publishers (Forthcoming).
Liphschitz, N., and C. Pulak. 2009. “Shipwrecks of the Portus Theodosiacus. Types of Wood Used in Some Byzantine Roundships and Longships found at Yenikapı, Istanbul.” Skyllis 9.2:164-71.
Liphschitz, N. and C. Pulak. 2007/2008. “Wood Species Used in Ancient Shipbuilding in Turkey: Evidence from Dendroarchaeological Studies.” Skyllis 1.2:73-82.
Pulak, C. 2007a. “Yenikapı Byzantine Shipwrecks.” In Istanbul: 8,000 Years Brought to Daylight: Marmaray, Metro, Sultanahmet Excavations, edited by Z. Kızıltan, pp. 202-15. Istanbul, Turkey: Vehbi Koç Vakfı.
Pulak, C. 2007b. “Yenikapı Batıkları: Fırtınanın Armağanı.” Arkeoatlas 2007:129-41.
Pulak, C. 2007c. “Yenikapı Batikları.” Atlas 172:100-15.
Pulak, C. 2007d. Yenikapı Buluntularının Teknoloji Tarihine Katkısı. Istanbul, Turkey: TTMOB Mimarlar Odası Büyükkent Şubesi.> Read Less