The shipwreck of the Uluburun, dating from the Late Bronze Age (c 1,400 BC), lies just 60 metres off the east coast of Turkey. The cargo ship, 15 metres long and made of cedar wood, was discovered in 1982 by a local sponge diver at a depth of 60 metres. This is the oldest wreck ever found and is of unique importance because of the richness and quantity of its cargo which included copper and tin ingots, jewellery, weapons and foodstuffs.
The shipwreck was excavated by archaeologists George Bass and Cemal Pulak from the Institute of Nautical Archaeology in Texas between 1984 and 2000. They found an enormous and rich cargo of artefacts and luxury items from the Late Bronze Age. Carbon dating, combined with evidence from items in the cargo, indicates that the ship sank in the 14th century BC.
The cargo on board the ship consisted of trade items and luxury goods, much of it in the form of raw materials. This included around 10,000 kilos of copper, which probably originated in Cyprus, made up of 354 ingots of the type known as oxhide, with four handgrips at the corners, and around 100 ingots with two handgrips. Tin ingots made up a further 1,000 kilos, together with more than 170 glass ingots which would have come from today’s Syria and Palestine. Other items included ebony from Africa, seashells, ostrich eggshells, elephant tusks, hippopotamus tusks and turtle shells.
There was a large amount of pottery, including enormous storage jars, and food items included almonds, olives, figs, pomegranates and spices. The cargo also comprised such diverse items as tools, weapons, fishing tackle and jewellery. One unique piece is a gold scarab engraved with the name of the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti. A complete inventory of the cargo can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uluburun_shipwreck
The objects found on board show that the ship sailed along the Levant, the Turkish coast, cities of Mycenia in Ancient Greece, the African coast and the Nile. The finds can be seen in the Museum of Marine Archaeology in Bodrum.
Text Nadine Lemmers
Translation Alun Harvey