Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Drangiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Monday, September 24, 2012

The shipwreck of Kızılburun, Turkey

It was only recently that I heard the name Kızılburun for the first time. I already know the shipwreck from Uluburun on Turkey’s southwestern shores where a huge amount of treasures was recuperated which are now exhibited at the Archeological Museum of Bodrum, but the cargo ships from Kızılburun?

It didn’t take too long before I found out that the promontory of Kızılburun, meaning as much as Crimson Cape, is located a few miles southwest of Izmir. It seems to be a rather dangerous point for maritime traffic since, beside the so-called Colum Wreck I’m interested in, at least five more wrecks have been located in the same area, including an amphora carrier from the 4th century BC, two Byzantine wrecks and a medieval millstone wreck. Sailing in antiquity, although frequent, was certainly not without risks!

Remains of a late Hellenistic ship were first discovered here in 1993. The ship was sailing from Proconnesos Island (near old Constantinople) with freshly quarried marble intended for the Temple of Apollo in Claros (about 40 miles from Kızılburun), but it sank before reaching its destination. On board were eight drums for an entire column and its capital in Doric style - an estimated total load of at least fifty tons! Until now, there was little or no information about the quarrying process, the long distance hauling by sea and the lively marble constructions that occurred during Hellenistic times in Asia Minor, now Western Turkey, but this find is changing all of this. Luckily, this wreck could be dated thanks to the amphoras found with the cargo to late 2nd or 1st century BC, which is quite interesting as in those days, architects generally preferred Ionic or Corinthian columns. Divers identified a wide range of smaller artifacts also, including black glass bowls, oil lamps and several types of amphoras.

During the 2006 diving season, underwater archeologists located more than a dozen large marble blocks, several steles, a marble pedestal and a 230-pound lead anchor stock, beside smaller items like plates, pans, cups, jugs, etc. They also lifted a cluster of intact amphoras of the typical Lamboglia type, the largest group on board of this vessel, beside another set of amphoras made in ancient Colchis near the Black Sea.

The most difficult task then was to raise the massive marble column drums, each weighing between 6.5 and 7.5 tons! A system was developed whereby nylon straps put around the drum were attached to heavy duty balloons. That year, the divers were able to salvage four of the eight columns. The remaining four as well as the Doric capital were lifted a year later, in 2007.

Interestingly next to the drum pile, portions of the ship’s secondary cargo has been discovered, i.e. large blocks probably to be used as building material; marble items like two large basins with pedestal, a roughly worked out but fine hand basin, and an unfinished stele; also some pottery and amphoras originating from Eastern Greece, the Adriatic and even Egypt!

The tie with Claros occurred in due course. The column elements pointed towards a monumental construction and after serious investigations, archeologists were able to make the connection with the nearby Temple of Apollo at Claros. This is where I’m getting all excited for when I was in Claros a few years ago, I was utterly amazed by the size of one of the drums lying in the grass. I even took a picture of it, leaving my camera cover on top of it to show the shear size! Wow! At that time, there were approximately a dozen of archeologists at work, digging and removing dirt from a building next to the very temple. It may be worth another trip one of these days, just to see what the latest excavations have been revealing. By then, there might be more news about the ship’s construction itself, but I suppose this will take quite some time.

Progress of the excavations around Kızılburun can be followed via the link of the University of Texas, updated in 2008 and the one of National Geographic, updated in Feb 2009. 

[picture of the divers is from National Geographic]

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