Ep. 016 – Old Money: The Uluburun and Gelidonya Wrecks

Our dual focus in today's episode are shipwrecks from the same region of southern Turkey. The Cape Gelidonya wreck was discovered first, making it the first ancient shipwreck to have ever been fully recovered from the sea floor. The Uluburun wreck was found later, but it is the oldest shipwreck to have yielded a substantial portion of her cargo along with a portion of the ship hull. Dr. George Bass was the head of both wreck excavations, and the theory he ultimately proposed to explain the ship's and their cargo was one that revolutionized the academic community's view of trade in the Late Bronze Age Mediterranean. Were the Uluburun and Cape Gelidonya wrecks both the ill-fated remains of voyages conducted by 'proto-Phoenecian' sailors from the Levant? Listen to today's episode to hear the evidence for yourself!


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Sources

  • Cape Gelidonya Late Bronze Age Shipwreck Excavation, Inst. of Nautical Arch. [link]
  • Eric H. Cline, 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed (2014).
  • Fabio Esteban Amador, Fifty Years of Shipwreck Excavation Opens New Windows on History, Nat'l Geographic, Sept. 21, 2010. [link]
  • Fernand Braudel, Memory and the Mediterranean (1998).
  • Homer, The Iliad.
  • James P. Delgado, Cape Gelidonya and Uluburun, Archaeology Magazine. [link]
  • Lincoln Paine, The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World (2013).
  • Lionel Casson, The Ancient Mariners: Seafarers and Sea Fighters of the Mediterranean in Ancient Times (1959).
  • Shelley Wachsmann, Seagoing Ships and Seamanship in the Bronze Age Levant (2008).
  • Uluburun Late Bronze Age Shipwreck Excavation, Inst. of Nautical Arch. [link]
  • Uluburun Wreck, Texas A&M, Introduction to Nautical Archaeology. [link]

  4 comments for “Ep. 016 – Old Money: The Uluburun and Gelidonya Wrecks

  1. October 28, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    I’m quite fascinated with the glass ingots. How would they have been used? Melted down again to create bottles or beads?

    • brandon
      November 2, 2015 at 10:48 pm

      In all likelihood, yes. Based on what I’ve read, the methods for making raw glass were secrets that was held onto by the ‘state’ of Bronze Age cultures, due mostly to the cost of glass and its status as a luxury item. There have been a few raw glass production sites found in Egypt, at Amarna in particular, and if the ‘state-secret’ theory is true, then that would lead to a trade in raw ingots that would then be worked into beads or other finished products by artisans down the line. Another use for raw glass that I recall seeing was as a glaze for pottery. Occasionally, glass inlays were made by pouring molten glass into pre-formed molds.

      Realistically, though, the art of glass making remained somewhat crude during the Bronze Age, and it completely disappeared during and immediately following the Bronze Age Collapse around 1200 BCE. Classical Greece and Rome, even Phoenicia were all places where glass making became more refined.

      It’s interesting to note too that some of the larger glass ingots from the Uluburun wreck have been shown to fit perfectly within glass-melting crucibles found at the Amarna glass-production site, so it’s possible that they were produced in Egypt and en route to a Mycenaean palace.

      • November 3, 2015 at 11:36 am

        Interesting, thanks for the explanation. It conjure intriguing scenarios, such as pirates raiding shipping for glass, rather than gold. 🙂

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