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Uluburun shipwreck

Coordinates: 36°7′43″N 29°41′9″E / 36.12861°N 29.68583°E / 36.12861; 29.68583
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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
Uluburun shipwreck is located in Turkey
Uluburun shipwreck
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
LocationUneven slope of the headland's shelf, 44 m (144 ft) to 52 m (171 ft) deep, with artifacts down to 61 m (200 ft)
RegionBay of Antalya, off the Turquoise Coast.
Coordinates36°7′43″N 29°41′9″E / 36.12861°N 29.68583°E / 36.12861; 29.68583
TypeSite of a sunken ship
LengthAbout 10 m (33 ft) N-S, horizontal plot plan
WidthAbout 18 m (59 ft) E-W, horizontal plot-plan
Area180 m2 (1,900 sq ft), horizontal plot-plan
HeightDepth differential is 8 m (26 ft) vertical, with scattered artifacts, 17 m (56 ft)
BuilderUnknown. The cargo was probably Mycenaean, deduced from the major type of ingot
MaterialWooden, single-mast, two-prow (stem, stern) sailing ship with one steering oar on a side
FoundedIn use late 14th century BC; date obtained by dendrochronological dating
AbandonedSank late 14th century BC
PeriodsLate Bronze Age
CulturesMycenaean, Cypriote, judging by the pottery
Associated withCrew of the merchant vessel
EventsCollision with the headland, perhaps wind-driven
Site notes
Excavation datesExcavational dives directed by George Bass in 1984, and Cemal Pulak in 1985–1994
ArchaeologistsGeorge F. Bass, Cemal Pulak
ConditionConservation, sampling and study are ongoing
OwnershipRepublic of Turkey
ManagementInstitute of Nautical Archaeology, an international organization
Public accessObjects may be viewed in the exhibit at the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology
Website"Uluburun, Turkey". 23 February 2020.

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), Turkey, in the Mediterranean Sea.[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[edit]

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. A branch loaded on the ship was determined to exhibit tree-rings as late as 1305 BC; but given that no bark has survived it is impossible to determine if it had further, younger rings. It has been assumed that the ship sank not long after that date.[10] Kuniholm later cautioned that the low quality of the sample does not allow an "especially strong" dating. After a radiocarbon calibration of the entire Anatolian dendrochronological sequence, Kuniholm suggested a new date, ca. 1327 BC.[11]

Manning et al. made Radiocarbon dating tests on several samples of plant material from the site. A sample from the cedar keel of the ship was construed as providing a terminus post quem for the construction phase. Other samples, including perishable items from short-lived species, like rope and dunnage, were construed to have come on board the ship in the phase of the last voyage. The two phases constrained each other, and Bayesian statistics was used to produce date ranges of varying probabilities. The most likely date of the sinking of the ship was rounded up to 1320±15 years.[12]

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.[13] 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.[14]

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. Based on the findings, it has been suggested that Mycenaean officials were also aboard accompanying the gifts.[15]

The vessel[edit]

Lifesize replica at the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology.

The distribution of the wreckage and the scattered cargo indicates that the ship was between 15 and 16 metres (49 and 52 ft) 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.[16]

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.[17] Lebanese cedar is indigenous to the mountains of Lebanon, southern Turkey, and central Cyprus.[18] 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.[13]


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.

  • Copper and tin ingots
    • Raw copper cargo totaling ten tons, consisting of a total of 354 ingots of the oxhide ingot type (rectangular with handholds extending from each corner).
    • Out of the total number of ingots at least 31 unique two-handled ingots were identified that were most likely shaped this way to assist the process of loading ingots onto specially designed saddles or harnesses for ease of transport over long distances by pack animals.
    • 121 copper bun and oval ingots.
    • The oxhide ingots were originally stowed in 4 distinct rows across the ship's hold, which either slipped down the slope after the ship sank or shifted as the hull settled under the weight of the cargo.
    • Lead-isotope analysis indicates that most or all of the copper is sourced in Cyprus.
    • Approximately one ton of tin (when alloyed with the copper would make about 11 tons of bronze).
    • Tin ingots were oxhide and bun shaped.
    • In 2022 one third of the tin was found to come from the Mušiston mine in Uzbekistan. The other share likely came from the Kestel Mine in Turkey's Taurus Mountains.[19] The ingots suffer from corrosion and likely contamination. However, unlike some other tin ingots from the eastern Mediterranean, they do not fit the profile of tin from Cornwall, and generally compare to ores from Sardinia.[20] More recent research disputed these results.[21]
  • Canaanite jars and Pistacia resin
    • At least 149 Canaanite jars (widely found in Greece, Cyprus, Syria-Palestine, and Egypt).
    • Jars are categorized as the northern type and were most likely made somewhere in the northern part of modern-day Israel.
    • One jar filled with glass beads, many filled with olives, but the majority contained a substance known as Pistacia (terebinth) resin, an ancient type of turpentine.
    • Recent clay fabric analyses of Canaanite jar sherds from the 18th Dynasty site of Tel el Amarna have produced a specific clay fabric designation, and it is seemingly the same as that from the Uluburun shipwreck, of a type that is exclusively associated in Amarna with transporting Pistacia resin.
  • Glass ingots
    • Approximately 175 glass ingots of cobalt blue, turquoise, and lavender were found (earliest intact glass ingots known).
    • Chemical composition of cobalt blue glass ingots matches those of contemporary Egyptian core-formed vessels and Mycenaean pendant beads, which suggests a common source.
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
  • Miscellaneous cargo
    • Logs of blackwood from Africa (referred to as ebony by the Egyptians).
    • Ivory in the form of whole and partial hippopotamus and elephant tusks.
    • More than a dozen hippopotamus teeth.
    • Tortoise carapaces (upper shells).
    • Murex opercula (possible ingredient for incense).
    • Ostrich eggshells.
    • Cypriot pottery.
    • Cypriot oil lamps.
    • Bronze and copper vessels (four faience drinking cups shaped as rams’ heads and one shaped as a woman's head).
    • Two duck-shaped ivory cosmetics boxes.
    • Ivory cosmetics or unguent spoon.
    • Trumpet.
    • More than two dozen sea-shell rings.
    • Beads of amber (Baltic origin).
    • Agate.
    • Carnelian.
    • Quartz.
    • Gold.
    • Faience.
    • Glass.
  • Jewelry, gold, and silver
    • Collection of usable and scrap gold and silver Canaanite jewelry.
    • Among the 37 gold pieces are: pectorals, medallions, pendants, beads, a small ring ingot, and an assortment of fragments.
    • Biconical chalice (largest gold object from wreck).
    • Egyptian objects of gold, electrum, silver, and steatite (soap stone).
    • Gold scarab inscribed with the name of Nefertiti.
    • Bronze female figurine (head, neck, hands, and feet covered in sheet gold).
  • Weapons and tools
  • Pan-balance weights
    • 19 zoomorphic weights (Uluburun weight assemblage is one of the largest and most complete groups of contemporaneous Late Bronze Age weights).
    • 120 geometric-shaped weights.
  • Edibles


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.[23] The wreck lay between 44 and 52 meters deep on a steep, rocky slope riddled with sand pockets.[24] 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.[25] 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.

See Also[edit]


  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 978-1575060835.
  8. ^ a b Pulak, 2005 p. 47
  9. ^ Tartaron, Thomas (2013). Maritime Networks in the Mycenaean World. Cambridge University Press. p. 26. ISBN 978-1107002982.
  10. ^ Pulak, 1998 p. 214
  11. ^ Manning, Sturt W.; Kromer, Bernd; Kuniholm, Peter Ian; Newton, Maryanne W. (21 December 2001). "Anatolian Tree Rings and a New Chronology for the East Mediterranean Bronze-Iron Ages". Science. 294 (5551): 2535. Bibcode:2001Sci...294.2532M. doi:10.1126/science.1066112. PMID 11743159. S2CID 33497945.. Cited in James, Peter, The Uluburun Shipwreck - a Dendrochronological Scandal.
  12. ^ Manning, Sturt W. (2009). "Absolute Age of the Uluburun Shipwreck: A Key Late Bronze Age Time-Capsule for the East Mediterranean". Tree-Rings, Kings and Old World Archaeology and Environment: Papers Presented in Honor of Peter Ian Kuniholm. Oxbow Books. ISBN 978-1-84217-386-2. JSTOR j.ctt1cfr7x1.
  13. ^ a b Pulak, 2005 p. 46
  14. ^ Pulak, 1998 p. 220
  15. ^ Demand, Nancy H. (2011). The Mediterranean Context of Early Greek History. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-1444342345.
  16. ^ Pulak, 1998 p. 210.
  17. ^ Pulak, 1998 p. 213
  18. ^ Pulak, 2005 p. 43
  19. ^ "Findings from 3,300-year-old Uluburun shipwreck reveal complex trade network".
  20. ^ Berger, Daniel; Soles, Jeffrey S.; Giumlia-Mair, Alessandra R.; Brügmann, Gerhard; Galili, Ehud; Lockhoff, Nicole; Pernicka, Ernst (2019-06-26). Zerboni, Andrea (ed.). "Isotope systematics and chemical composition of tin ingots from Mochlos (Crete) and other Late Bronze Age sites in the eastern Mediterranean Sea: An ultimate key to tin provenance?". PLOS ONE. 14 (6): e0218326. Bibcode:2019PLoSO..1418326B. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0218326. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 6594607. PMID 31242218.
  21. ^ [1] Daniel Berger et al, "Why Central Asia’s Mushiston is not a source for the Late Bronze Age tin ingots from the Uluburun shipwreck", Front. Earth Sci., Sec. Geochemistry Volume 11, 04 August 2023 https://doi.org/10.3389/feart.2023.1211478
  22. ^ Payton, Robert (2013). "The Ulu Burun Writing-Board Set". Anatolian Studies. 41: 99–106. doi:10.2307/3642932. JSTOR 3642932. S2CID 129794402.
  23. ^ Pulak, 2005 p. 35
  24. ^ Pulak, 1998 p. 189
  25. ^ Bass, 1986 p. 272


  • Bass, George F (1986). "A Bronze Age Shipwreck at Ulu Burun (Kas): 1984 Campaign". American Journal of Archaeology. 90 (3): 269–296. doi:10.2307/505687. JSTOR 505687. S2CID 192966981.
  • Pulak, Cemal (1988). "The Bronze Age Shipwreck at Ulu Burun, Turkey: 1985 Campaign". American Journal of Archaeology. 92 (1): 1–37. doi:10.2307/505868. JSTOR 505868. S2CID 191374689.
  • Pulak, Cemal (1998). "The Uluburun Shipwreck: An Overview". The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. 27 (3): 188–224. doi:10.1111/j.1095-9270.1998.tb00803.x.
  • Pulak, Cemal (2005). "Discovering a Royal Ship from the Age of King Tut: Uluburun, Turkey". In Bass, George F. (ed.). Beneath the Seven Seas. New York: Thames & Hudson. pp. 34–47.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]