Mapping across time and space Project #3 Uluburun Shipwreck

Group #3: Uluburun Shipwreck

(Emile Bautista, Gabrielle Hick, Thomas Pettengill, Todd Stewart, Guo Wang)

Please click here to see the TimeMapper visualization of the Uluburun Shipwreck

The Uluburun Shipwreck was an ancient ship discovered close to the east shore of Uluburun and was, in its time, the deepest shipwreck to be completely excavated by underwater archaeologists. The wreck contained a significant cargo of trading goods, many of which originated from thousands of miles away. The ship was most likely sailing from a Levantine port, carrying Canaanite merchants to a Mycenaean emporium, when it sank off the coast of southern Turkey around 1305 BCE. The bulk of the items found were trade goods purchased or obtained along the Levantine coast, with the rest of the cargo most likely consisting of personal belongings of the crew and passengers. The most significant portion of the cargo was copper ore and ingots from Cyprus. The trade goods varied in both quality and kind, ranging from luxury items like Canaanite gold jewelry to jars of incense. Although the origins of the items found at the Uluburun shipwreck covered a geographical range as far west as Romania and as far east as Afghanistan, the majority of the trade goods were traced back to the Levantine coast, which was controlled by the Egyptian and Hittite Empires during this time. The bulk of the goods on board – the copper ingots and ore – originated from the island of Cyprus, which at this time had a Mycenaean presence but was independent of any large empire. Other commodities included Egyptian ebony, 2,000 pounds of terebinth resin stored in Canaanite jars, and almost 200 coloured disc-shaped glass ingots from the northern Levantine coast.

While it is inferred from the personal possessions found on board that the crew and ship were either from Canaan or Cyprus, certain personal items seem to indicate that two crewmembers were Mycenaean. A number of weights were also discovered in the wreckage, and considering merchants traditionally owned a personal set of weights, it may be argued that the seemingly out of place Mycenaeans were travelling merchants. However, the lack of any Aegean weights further proves that the Mycenaeans on board were not merchants, and therefore were most likely crewmembers. The stone sceptre head found, whose closest parallel was discovered in modern day Bulgaria, helps to connect this ship and its trading endeavors to the lands north of Greece. Additionally, the tin ore found, mined in Afghanistan, indicates trading relationships between the eastern Mediterranean world and Asian tribes almost as far east as the Himalayas. Therefore, the excavated artifacts prove that the Levantine coast and Cyprus would have served as centres of major international trade, connecting not only the two major powers of the Hittite and Egyptian Empire, but also the Mycenaean culture and those tribes as far inland as Afghanistan.

While international trade in the Eastern Mediterranean, to an extent, centred on the Mycenaean culture and the Hittite and Egyptian Empires, this was in the context of a larger web of international trade which, as previously suggested, involved trading powers as far east as Afghanistan and as far west as Romania. While none of these international powers directly controlled Cyprus, the island served as a major source for material resources like copper, and more importantly, was a strategically important centre for trade. It has been postulated that the Uluburun ship had even set sail from Cyprus, which would make sense given the vast amount of copper found on board. By sourcing the origins of all the items found in the Uluburun Shipwreck, a detailed picture of international trade during the Late Bronze Age can be painted. The Uluburun Shipwreck proves a significant archaeological find; the historical information archaeologists may ascertain from the wreckage more precious than any copper ingots.

The TimeMapper program was extremely useful for visualizing the connections between trading powers in the Late Bronze Age. It allowed for the mapping of the shipwreck’s contents, as well as where and when they were from, creating a map that simplifies the trade networks.