Divers and marine archaeologists used high-resolution sonar systems to survey the ancient sea route and associated features.

Researchers in Turkey identify Bronze Age sea route and ancient shipwrecks

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Marine archaeologists working in the eastern Mediterranean Sea are reconstructing the facts around what they call a 5,000-year-old shipping route and shipbuilding center that have been long submerged. The researchers found shipwrecks, harbors, anchoring spots, and shipyards that sunk after an earthquake.

The underwater archaeological survey is underway in Turkey’s southern province of Silifke near the city of Mersin. Hurriyet Daily News calls the finds “traces of the world’s first maritime route and earlier harbors.”

Researchers from Konya Selçuk University’s Underwater Research Center have been doing the work on board and diving using high-resolution sonar systems from the Selçuk-1 Scientific Research Vessel since June 2015. The researchers say the sea route was in use from the Bronze Age to the Ottoman era.

Professor Hakan Öniz of the Underwater Research Center said the team is determining the location of wrecks.

“With the technology of using four different sonar systems at the same time, we mapped the bottom of the sea,” Öniz said. “Divers made scientific work on wreckages, which were taken into the inventory of the Culture and Tourism Ministry. Scientific work has been continuing to present the results during international symposiums. Anchors and wreckages have already showed us the sea route on the coasts of Silifke has been used for at least 5,000 years with vessels traveling between Cyprus, Egypt, Rhodes, Knidos, Italy and all the coasts of the Eastern Mediterranean.”

Shipyards in the region date back to the 8 th century BC, he said. Cedar trees in the Taurus Mountains were the region’s most important export material centuries ago, he said.

“But new data reveals that at least 100 vessels were produced in the region in a large shipyard,” he said. “These shipyards were established on natural-slope rocky grounds. Underwater work unearthed some parts of the shipyards that remained underwater after earthquakes.”

In a separate article, Hurriyet Daily reported on the team finding 12 shipwrecks that are estimated to be 2,500 years old.

The team is also continuing work on warships that sunk in the naval part of the 1915-’16 Battle of Gallipoli off the Çanakkale coast. The team, which is being helped by the Piri Reis research vessel, is doing the work in anticipation of the battle’s 100 th anniversary. They are also surveying other ships wrecks of importance in Çanakkale’s maritime history.

These ancient frescoes from the island of Santorini in Greece show shipping in the Mediterranean Sea.

These ancient frescoes from the island of Santorini in Greece show shipping in the Mediterranean Sea.

These ancient frescoes from the island of Santorini in Greece show shipping in the Mediterranean Sea. ( Wikimedia Commons )

The 10-person team is using seven underwater scanners, the sonar systems and a lifter. It is the only independent underwater archaeological team in the field on the Turkish coast, Hurriyet Daily says. In addition to Selcuk University, the team is consulting with Harun Özdaş of Dokuz Eylül University.

With seven underwater cameras, sonar scanner systems, diving equipment, a lifter and a 10-person team, the vessel is the only one of its kind in the field in Turkey.

In other marine archaeology news out of Turkey , work at Soli Pompeiopolis that had been solely on dry ground will now be undertaken underwater. That site is also in southern Mersin province.

The site has been called one of the most important ports of the Romans. It was established around the second century BC. It features 200 pillars, many of which are still standing.

Many of the 200 Roman-era pillars at Soli Pompeipolis are still standing.

Many of the 200 Roman-era pillars at Soli Pompeipolis are still standing. (Photo by Vassia Atanassova/ Wikimedia Commons )

The history of this work is better understood because it is more recent than the Bronze Age work being done not far away. Remzi Yağcı, the head of the excavation, said the site was submerged in Mediterranean waters by a 525 AD earthquake. Scholars think Rhodes pirates founded the port around 700 BC after coming into Anatolia through Cyprus. The Roman Empire later annexed the port and renamed it after Commander Pompeii.

Featured image: Divers and marine archaeologists used high-resolution sonar systems to survey the ancient sea route and associated features. (Photo by Andalou Agency)

By Mark Miller

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