Researchers Surprised by Rich and Rare Roman Plate Set Found Underwater in Turkey
A collection of Byzantine (Eastern Roman Empire) plates bearing beautiful designs has been found underwater near Antayla, Turkey. The find is one of the richest of its kind and exceedingly rare.
Hurriyet Daily News reports that the team of researchers has removed 100 unbroken and 300 broken plates from the depths. The plates were found scattered over an area of 15-20 meters (49.21-65.62 ft.)
Selçuk University Archaeology Department academic Hakan Öniz told the Hurriyet Daily News the ship carrying the plates may have met its fate when it got caught in a storm. He said: “The region where the ship wreckage was found looks like a harbor in which to shelter during storms. These harbors are called false harbors because when you look at these harbors, you would think it would protect you from the storm. The captain of the ship thought it was a safe place and anchored there, but even though the wind stopped, the current did not, and the ship hit a rock and was broken into pieces.”
Photo of some of the plates found underwater near Antalya, Turkey. (arkeolojihaber)
Öniz also believes that the ship must have been loaded with goods from two different factories before it set out. This was determined by looking at the two techniques used on the recovered plates. They are decorated with a variety of rare designs and researchers were surprised when they made the discovery. As Hakan Öniz said:
“We were not hopeful of finding anything considerable. Just then, we found a solid, very beautiful plate with its own colors. It made us very happy. We were amazed by the designs on it. As we found the others, we were surprised by the motifs on each plate. There are fish and flower motifs unique to the era. The workmanship was very good. All of them were 800-900 years old.”
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For conservation purposes, the plates are being cleaned of salt at the Antalya Museum’s laboratory before they will go on display. “The materials like amphora and ceramic plates have micro holes, and salt piles up in these holes.” Öniz explained.
Work is expected to continue at the site until next year. But researchers are hesitant about hopes for other major finds due to suspicions of illegal diving in the area. Although diving was banned around the site for the last 10 years by the Culture and Tourism Ministry, Öniz suggested to the Hurriyet Daily News that divers may have continued diving in the cove anyway. This may explain the broken plates found on the surface, which Öniz suggested could have been broken with a hammer when people tried to remove them from the rocks.
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One of the beautifully designed plates that has been broken. (DHA Photo)
In September 2015, Mark Miller wrote for Ancient Origins about how Professor Hakan Öniz and his team began determining the location of ancient wrecks and found “traces of the world’s first maritime route and earlier harbors.” Öniz said:
“With the technology of using four different sonar systems at the same time, we mapped the bottom of the sea. 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.”
These Bronze Age frescoes from the island of Santorini in Greece show a ship procession in the Mediterranean Sea. (Public Domain)
Furthermore, they discovered that at least 100 vessels were produced in the region in a large shipyard. “These shipyards were established on natural-slope rocky grounds. Underwater work unearthed some parts of the shipyards that remained underwater after earthquakes.” The 10-person team used seven underwater scanners, the sonar systems, and a lifter in the 2015 underwater archaeological works.
Top Image: A researcher examining some of the plates found underwater near Antalya, Turkey. Source: arkeofili