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Serçe Limani

An Eleventh-Century Shipwreck Vol. 1, The Ship and Its Anchorage, Crew, and Passengers

By George F. Bass, Sheila Matthews, J. Richard Steffy and Frederick H. van Doorninck Jr.

Publication Year: 2004

For almost a millennium, a modest wooden ship lay underwater off the coast of Serçe Limani, Turkey, filled with evidence of trade and objects of daily life. The ship, now excavated by the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University, trafficked in both the Byzantine and Islamic worlds of its time. The ship is known as “the Glass Wreck” because its cargo included three metric tons of glass cullet, including broken Islamic vessels, and eighty pieces of intact glassware. In addition, it held glazed Islamic bowls, red-ware cooking vessels, copper cauldrons and buckets, wine amphoras, weapons, tools, jewelry, fishing gear, remnants of meals, coins, scales and weights, and more. This first volume of the complete site report introduces the discovery, the methods of its excavation, and the conservation of its artifacts. Chapters cover the details of the ship, its contents, the probable personal possessions of the crew, and the picture of daily shipboard life that can be drawn from the discoveries.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Ed Rachal Foundation Nautical Archaeology Series

Title Page, Copyright Page

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To the memory of Nixon Griffis (1917-1993)

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Nixon Griffis was the first patron of nautical archaeology as practiced in the Mediterranean today, for in 1959 he made the initial contribution toward my excavation of a Bronze Age shipwreck at Cape Gelidonya, Turkey, which became the first ancient wreck excavated in its entirety on the seabed. I first...

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pp. xi-xiii

We know infinitely more about daily life in Imperial Rome in the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D. than in any period of Byzantine history. I may add that we know considerably more about Byzantine life from the 4th to the mid-7th century than about the four hundred...


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pp. xv-xvii

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1. Introduction and Explanations

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pp. 3-9

Just inside the harbor entrance on the eastern side is a cargo of amphoras, probably Rhodian, perhaps of the first century B.C. or A.D. at a depth of about 20-25m. This site, discovered by Donald Frey during a single dive while the excavation of the eleventh-century wreck was in progress, has...

Part I: The Ship, the Site, and the Excavation

Section 1: The History of Serçe Limanı

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pp. 11

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2. The Region of Serçe Limanı in Classical Times

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pp. 13-20

Any place on the shores of the Mediterranean where a protected harbor lies near a flat and fertile valley must have served the purposes of man long before the beginning of recorded history. No organized excavation has been undertaken on land near Serçe Limanı, however; only nautical...

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3. The Region of Serçe Limanı in Byzantine Times

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pp. 21-30

The ship that sank in the eleventh century inside the entrance to Serçe Limanı, ancient Kresa, port of Kasara, was returning toward the Sea of Marmara or Constantinople, whence it had sailed carrying Bulgar/Byzantine merchants to take on a cargo of Islamic glass and glazed pottery in Syria or...

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4. An Archaeological History of the Anchorage

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pp. 31-46

During the course of the excavation of the eleventh-century A.D. shipwreck at Serçe Limanı, broken pottery was observed scattered on the slope above the wreck site as well as beneath the ship's hull remains. This pottery, examined in passing, did not represent a single time or culture and was...

Section II: Discovery, Excavation, and Conservation

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pp. 47

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5. Discovery, Excavation, and Conservation

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pp. 49-70

The American Institute of Nautical Archaeology was incorporated in Philadelphia in the fall of 1972, with G. F. Bass, Ann Singletary Bass, and Steven Gaddon, Esq., as its three founding officers. From then until its first board meeting, AINA consisted only of stationery, thanks to a gift of $100 from Daniel...

Section III: The Ship: Hull, Rigging, Anchors, and Ballast

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pp. 71

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6. Introduction to Ship Studies

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pp. 73-74

One of the primary reasons for selecting the Serçe Limanı medieval wreck for excavation, from among several promising sites revealed by the INA survey of 1973, was the lack of information concerning eleventh-century Mediterranean shipbuilding. A few years before, some members of our team had been...

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7. Recording the Hull

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pp. 75-79

Seabed recording of hull remains continued throughout the excavation. This was aided by the metal-and-wood grid of 2m x 2m squares, described above (Fig. 5-8), that was positioned over the wreck. Each horizontal row in the grid received a numerical designation, and each vertical row was assigned a...

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8. The Hull Remains

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pp. 81-122

Less than 20 percent of the hull of the Serçe Limanı medieval merchant ship survived. Most of the remains were limited to the bottom of the vessel and a small area of the upper port stern (Fig. 8-1). The hull had settled on its port bottom, perpendicular to a gentle slope that increased the port list...

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9. Reconstruction, Reassembly, and Display

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pp. 123-150

The decision to reassemble the remains of the Serçe Limanı medieval vessel and display them in a museum expanded the scope and importance of the reconstruction process. Graphic and three-dimensional laboratory and archival reconstruction processes were still required, but now they had...

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10. Construction and Analysis of the Vessel

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pp. 153-169

Before presenting the results of the Serçe Limanı hull reconstruction, it will be helpful to summarize the contents of the field catalogs and drawings. The ship had a small keel–a very simple, rectangular keel made from elm. The keel had no false keel to protect it and no rabbets to seat the...

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11. Evidence for the Rig of the Serçe Limanı Ship

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pp. 171-187

Remnants raised from the Serçe Limanı wreck offer scant clues concerning the ship's rig. Despite this, it is possible to reach conclusions as to the most probable rig and the number and placement of masts, primarily through an analysis of the design, structure, and hydrostatic properties of the hull. We...

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12. The Anchors

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pp. 189-238

On June 29, the first day of the initial 1977 season, before any excavation had been undertaken, broken parts of three anchors (now designated An 1, 2, and 4) were observed at the northern (forward) end of the then visible portion of the wreck (Fig. 12-1). It was noted that at least two of them...

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13. Ballast Distribution and Weight

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pp. 241-252

Stone ballast recovered from the wreck fell rather easily into three size categories: pebbles with diameters of some 2–4 cm; fist-sized cobbles usually 6–10 cm long; and larger stones weighing anywhere from 1 to 50 kg. The larger stones primarily consisted of blocks of beachrock and boulders of...

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14. The Querns

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pp. 255-262

Two complete rotary querns were found on the wreck (Figs. 14-1 and 14-2). Each quern consists of two disk-shaped stones. In use, one stone lay flat on the ground and the other was placed upon it. The upper stone was held by a central spindle and was turned with a vertical wooden handle to grind the...

Part II: Possessions and Victuals

Section IV. Probable Personal Possessions of Crew and Passengers, Excluding Ceramic Wares and Commercial Equipment

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pp. 263

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15. The Ship, Its Lading, and Its Living Spaces

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pp. 265-272

A general survey of how spaces on the ship were utilized will allow the reader to understand the contexts of the finds described in the remaining chapters. We begin by summarizing the information presented in detail in Section III, above...

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16. Personal Effects

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pp. 275-287

In a compact space (J3 LR3) already recognized as the living area of one or more merchants, passengers, or crew near the bow of the ship (Figs. 16-1 and 16-2; see also chapter 15) were a wooden comb, a pair of iron scissors, an iron razor, an iron knife, and the wooden handle for some iron object, perhaps...

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17. Jewelry

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pp. 289-295

Jewelry in the main seems not to have been worn on the ship, but was stored with other valuables, although in a different container from the Byzantine copper coins found close by. Twelve of the sixteen pieces of jewelry recovered from the site were found in grid square O4, mostly in its lower right quadrant, along with...

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18. Tools

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pp. 297-326

Seagoing ships are, by necessity, self-contained systems. In addition to carrying cargo and provisions, they must carry the means to transact business in port and defend themselves in dangerous waters. They must also carry equipment and supplies for making repairs and taking care of the regular...

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19. The Gaming Pieces

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pp. 329-343

Among the very few artifacts from the Serçe Limanı shipwreck whose function was not immediately apparent were several wooden pieces, presented in two photographs, that the author was asked to study: three flat pieces and two dowellike pieces in one photograph, and two small...

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20. Metal Vessels

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pp. 345-360

A copper caldron with slightly curved sides, projecting rim, and convex base, and a second one probably like it, were found in the seventh-century Byzantine shipwreck at Yassıada. They came from the ship's galley and were undoubtedly used for cooking and serving meals. We may assume that the various...

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21. The Weapons

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pp. 363-397

Since the second half of the nineteenth century, the systematic study of early medieval arms and armor has depended upon documentary sources and artistic representations. Examples of early weaponry are extremely rare. Often, those that do exist either have been significantly altered over time or have...

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22. Fishing Gear

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pp. 399-435

Fishing seems to have been a major, time-consuming activity for some of those who sailed on the modest merchantman that sank at Serçe Limanı. Nets were set only when the ship was in port or otherwise moored, but some of the crew devoted much effort to mending and perhaps even making nets...

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23. The Padlocks

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pp. 437-452

Among the hundreds of concretions recovered during the excavation of the eleventh-century wreck at Serçe Limanı (see chapter 5), four were of padlocks of two major types (Fig. 23-1). The first, with three examples, is of the type invariably named spring, barbed-spring, barb-bolt, cylindrical, or barrel lock. The...

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24. Lead-Isotope Analyses of Glass, Glazes, and Some Metal Artifacts

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pp. 453-467

Scientific analyses of ancient artifacts can provide much information about past times. In particular, the chemical analyses of glasses, glazes, and metals provide unique insight into the ancient technologies of the manufacture of these materials. However, because technological information was passed...

Section V. Victuals

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pp. 469

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25. Faunal Remains

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pp. 471-492

Retrieval from the Serçe Limanı shipwreck of animal bones has provided insight into the diet and eating habits of the crew and passengers on board at least one vessel of the high medieval period–a subject on which information has otherwise been scanty...

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26. Plant Remains

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pp. 495-511

Among the materials recovered from the Serçe Limanı wreck were seeds, fruits, and nuts (Figs. 26-1 to 26-4). These plant remains might easily have been overlooked if the excavation had taken place a decade earlier, for although fruit stones and nuts had been found on Mediterranean shipwrecks since the...

Section VI. Appendices

Appendix A: Shipbuilding Glossary

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pp. 515-517

Appendix B: Concordance of Lot Numbers and Grid Areas of Site

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pp. 519-531


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pp. 533-548


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pp. 549-558

E-ISBN-13: 9781603446518
E-ISBN-10: 1603446516
Print-ISBN-13: 9780890969472
Print-ISBN-10: 0890969477

Page Count: 592
Illustrations: 121 b&w photos. 129 line drawings. 3 maps. 45 tables.
Publication Year: 2004

Volume Title: Serçe Limani
Series Title: Ed Rachal Foundation Nautical Archaeology Series