Uluburun shipwreck

Uluburun Late Bronze Age Shipwreck
Uluburun is Turkish for "Grand Cape".

Wooden model of the ship's reconstruction

Wooden model of the ship's reconstruction

Site of the wreck 50 m (160 ft) off the eastern shore of Uluburun, and 6 mi (9.7 km) to the southeast of Kaş, Turkey
Location Uneven slope of the headland's shelf, 44 m (144 ft) to 52 m (171 ft) deep, with artifacts down to 61 m (200 ft)
Region Bay of Antalya, off the Turquoise Coast.
Coordinates 36°7′43″N 29°41′9″E / 36.12861°N 29.68583°E / 36.12861; 29.68583Coordinates: 36°7′43″N 29°41′9″E / 36.12861°N 29.68583°E / 36.12861; 29.68583
Type Site of a sunken ship
Length About 10 m (33 ft) N-S, horizontal plot plan
Width About 18 m (59 ft) E-W, horizontal plot-plan
Area 180 m2 (1,900 sq ft), horizontal plot-plan
Height Depth differential is 8 m (26 ft) vertical, with scattered artifacts, 17 m (56 ft)
Builder Unknown. The cargo was probably Syrian, deduced from the major type of ingot
Material Wooden, single-mast, two-prow (stem, stern) sailing ship with one steering oar on a side
Founded Built after 1305 BCE; date obtained by dendrochronological dating
Abandoned Sank late 14th century BCE
Periods Late Bronze Age
Cultures Mycenaean, Cypriote, Syrian, judging by the pottery
Associated with Crew of the merchant vessel
Events Collision with the headland, perhaps wind-driven
Site notes
Excavation dates Excavational dives directed by George Bass in 1984, and Cemal Pulak in 1985-1994
Archaeologists George F. Bass, Cemal Pulak
Condition Conservation, sampling and study are ongoing
Ownership Republic of Turkey
Management Institute of Nautical Archaeology, an international organization
Public access Objects may be viewed in the exhibit at the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology
Website "Uluburun, Turkey". 

The Uluburun Shipwreck is a Late Bronze Age shipwreck dated to the late 14th century BC,[1] discovered close to the east shore of Uluburun (Grand Cape), and about 6 miles southeast of Kaş, in south-western Turkey.[2] The shipwreck was discovered in the summer of 1982 by Mehmed Çakir, a local sponge diver from Yalıkavak, a village near Bodrum.

Eleven consecutive campaigns of three to four months' duration took place from 1984 to 1994 totaling 22,413 dives, revealing one of the most spectacular Late Bronze Age assemblages to have emerged from the Mediterranean Sea[3]


The shipwreck site was discovered in the summer of 1982 due to Mehmet Çakir’s sketching of “the metal biscuits with ears” recognized as oxhide ingots. Turkish sponge divers were often consulted by the Institute of Nautical Archaeology's (INA) survey team on how to identify ancient wrecks while diving for sponges.[4] Çakir’s findings urged Oğuz Alpözen, Director of the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology, to send out an inspection team of the Museum and INA archaeologists to locate the wreck site. The inspection team was able to locate several amounts of copper ingots just 50 metres from the shore of Uluburun.[5]

Apparent route

With the evidence provided from the cargo on the ship it can be assumed that the ship set sail from either a Cypriot or Syro-Palestinian port. The Uluburun ship was undoubtedly sailing to the region west of Cyprus, but her ultimate destination can be concluded only from the distribution of objects matching the types carried on board.[6] It has been proposed that ship’s destination was a port somewhere in the Aegean Sea.[7] Rhodes, at the time an important redistribution centre for the Aegean, has been suggested as a possible destination.[8] According to the excavators of the shipwreck, the probable final destination of the ship was one of the Mycenaean palaces, in mainland Greece.[9]


Peter Kuniholm of Cornell University was assigned the task of dendrochronological dating in order to obtain an absolute date for the ship. The results date the wood at 1305 BC, but given that no bark has survived it is impossible to determine an exact date and it can be assumed that the ship sank sometime after that date.[10] Based on ceramic evidence, it appears that the Uluburun sank toward the end of the Amarna period, but could not have sunk before the time of Nefertiti due to the unique gold scarab engraved with her name found aboard the ship.[11] For now, a conclusion that the ship sank at the end of the 14th century BC is accepted.

The origins of the objects aboard the ship range geographically from northern Europe to Africa, as far west as Sicily and Sardinia, and as far east as Mesopotamia. They appear to be the products of nine or ten cultures.[8] These proveniences indicate that the Late Bronze Age Aegean was the medium of an international trade perhaps based on royal gift-giving in the Near East.[12]

According to a reconstruction by various scholars, the Uluburun shipwreck illustrates a thriving commercial sea network of the Late Bronze Age Mediterranean. In this case, a huge mixed cargo of luxury items, royal gifts and raw materials. According to the findings, it has been suggested that Mycenaean officials were also aboard accompanying the gifts.[13]

The vessel

The distribution of the wreckage and the scattered cargo indicates that the ship was between 15 and 16 meters long. It was constructed by the shell-first method, with mortise-and-tenon joints similar to those of the Graeco-Roman ships of later centuries.[14]

Even though there has been a detailed examination of Uluburun’s hull, there is no evidence of framing. The keel appears to be rudimentary, perhaps more of a keel-plank than a keel in the traditional sense. The ship was built with planks and keel of Lebanese cedar and oak tenons.[15] Lebanese cedar is indigenous to the mountains of Lebanon, southern Turkey, and central Cyprus.[16] The ship carried 24 stone anchors. The stone is of a type almost completely unknown in the Aegean, but is often built into the temples of Syria-Palestine and on Cyprus. Brushwood and sticks served as dunnage to help protect the ship’s planks from the metal ingots and other heavy cargo.[11]


This is a list of the cargo as described by Pulak (1998).

The Uluburun ship’s cargo consisted mostly of raw materials that were trade items, which before the ship’s discovery were known primarily from ancient texts or Egyptian tomb paintings. The cargo matches many of the royal gifts listed in the Amarna letters found at El-Amarna, Egypt.

Egyptian jewelry
1 gold disk-shaped pendant 2. gold falcon pendant 3. gold goddess pendant 4. faience beads 5. rock crystal beads 6. agate beads 7. faience beads 8. ostrich eggshell beads 9. silver bracelets 10. gold scrap 11. gold chalice 12. accreted mass of tiny faience beads 13. silver scrap


The Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA) began excavating in July 1984 under the direction of its founder, George F. Bass, and was then turned over to INA’s Vice President for Turkey, Cemal Pulak, who directed the excavation from 1985 to 1994.[17] The wreck lay between 44 and 52 meters deep on a steep, rocky slope riddled with sand pockets.[18] Half of the staff members who aided in the excavation lived in a camp built into the southeastern face of the promontory, which the ship most likely hit, while the other half lived aboard the Virazon, INA’s research vessel at the time. The excavation site utilized an underwater telephone booth and air-lifts. The mapping of the site was done by triangulation. Meter tapes and metal squares were used as an orientation aid for excavators.[19] Since the completion of the excavation in September 1994, all efforts have been concentrated on full-time conservation, study, and sampling for analysis in the conservation laboratory of the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology in Turkey.


  1. Pulak, 2005 p.34
  2. Pulak, 1998 p.188
  3. Pulak, 1998 p.188.
  4. Bass, 1986 p.269
  5. Bass, 1986 pp.269–270.
  6. Pulak, 1988 p.36
  7. Richard, Suzanne (2003). Near Eastern Archaeology: A Reader. Eisenbrauns. p. 136. ISBN 1575060833.
  8. 1 2 Pulak, 2005 p.47
  9. Tartaron, Thomas (2013). Maritime Networks in the Mycenaean World. Cambridge University Press. p. 26. ISBN 9781107002982.
  10. Pulak, 1998 p.214
  11. 1 2 Pulak, 2005 p.46
  12. Pulak, 1998 p.220
  13. Demand, Nancy H. (2011). The Mediterranean Context of Early Greek History. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9781444342345.
  14. Pulak, 1998 p.210.
  15. Pulak, 1998 p. 213
  16. Pulak, 2005 p.43
  17. Pulak, 2005 p. 35
  18. Pulak, 1998 p.189
  19. Bass, 1986 p.272


Further reading

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