Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Place of Shipwrecks - Bodrum, Turkey

June 9th, 2014

The most prominent feature that you see when you arrive into the harbor of Bodrum, Turkey, is the 15th century Castle of St. Peter. This castle, similar to the one in Rhodes, was also built by the Knights of St. John.



To obtain stone to build this castle, the Knights plundered the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (modern day Bodrum). This monument, which stood 145 feet tall, was listed as one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.  It was built at the request of Artemisia II (in about 350 BC) to serve as a tomb in honor of her husband  King Mausolus. The term ‘mausoleum’ has come to mean any above ground tomb.


For our stop in Bodrum, we had lined up a shore excursion which centered around a tour of the Underwater Archeological Museum which is housed in the castle.


The Underwater Archeological Museum found a home for its displays in 1959, with the first objects, including amphorae recovered by Bodrum sponge divers as well as objects that were retrieved from underwater exploration of the numerous ship wrecks off the coast of Turkey.

Now, the underwater exploration still continues in collaboration with a program at Texas A&M. Our guide had been one of the divers that had worked on excavating one of the shipwrecks.


Among the many artifacts were numerous amphora (these pointed bottom jars). We had seem amphoras before, but did not know anything about the use of such a funny looking vase.


As it turns out, these jars were used to store and transport many kinds of goods, from wine, to oil, to food and grains. Their narrow bottoms allowed for easier use and took up less space.


These amphoras could be safely stored, padded with moss or grass, and remained very stable in transport.

In 1989, when a construction crew was digging the foundation for a new exhibit, they unearthed a burial chamber with a sarcophagus containing the skeletal remains of a human female.


Surrounding this well preserved skeleton was gold jewelry and ornaments. It was clear that this woman, whoever she was, was a woman of wealth and prestige. Much research and forensics gave us this replica likeness.


It has been surmised that this woman is most likely Queen Ada I of the Hecatomnid Dynasty, the last of the Carian Princesses, living some 2400 years ago. It was noted by our guide that the forensic reconstruction showed her to not look as they had expected (perhaps expecting a smaller boned or prettier? woman) but she did look like the people who would have lived at that time in this area.


Continuing on with the exhibits……a boat model which shows the kind of vessels that cruised the waters that were being explored.


This display showed how the ship would have been loaded…….


And how the artifacts were found at the bottom of the sea.


There were many, many intact amphoras. And these odd shaped plates are bronze. They were used as raw materials for weapons, military armor, and many other goods.

We came to a room with artifacts displayed that were found on a 13th century BC Syrian trade ship.


They are able to tell that this was a trade vessel by the kinds of goods that were being carried. Also, by sampling the food stuffs that were stored in the jars, they could tell when and where (and even what time of year) the ship sailed.


What they could not tell is where the ship was going before it sank.


This ship had an unusual collection of goods, including these marble ostrich eggs. These and other’ high end goods’ suggested that the ship was likely carrying gifts to be delivered to a king or other high ranked person.


There were baskets of glass fragments that were recovered.


Some of the glass could be reconstructed……these vases were a beautiful example of the glass workmanship that existed at the time. Remember that this was the 13 century BC!


When the excavation turned up these glass ‘discs’, no one knew what they might have been used for. After asking around and consulting local glass artisans, the archeologists discovered that the ‘disc’ was simply the bottom piece that is cut off after a glass tumbler was fashioned. The presence of so many cast off pieces, and shards of glass suggested that the people recycled the used glass and re-sold it as raw materials.

We really found all of the shipwreck exhibits to be a fascinating ‘window’ into past civilizations. I took way too many pictures to post!

After the museum, we were on our own to walk back to our cruise ship.


It was a lovely walk down the main street……..clean and well landscaped with such beautiful flowers.


These banners were in front of a government building. The Turkish flag on the left and I think the Prime Minister on the right. It is sometimes easy to forget that you are in a foreign country, until you see their flags proudly flown.


A side street in the downtown……


Then we were walking along the beach front towards were our ship was docked. Very pretty…..


With plenty of lounge chairs (for a fee) or a table at the outdoor cafĂ©. We, however, opted to have lunch on board the Star Pride, and sit on our own deck and watch the world drift by.   : )

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