Work on Marmaray wrecks approaching end
KOCAELİ – Anadolu AgencyThe conservation process of 37 sunken ships discovered during the Istanbul Marmaray excavations and removed from the area over eight years is nearing completion. The unearthed ships are set to be displayed when the works are completed by the end of this year.
Istanbul University Associate Professor Ufuk Kocabaş, who is the head of the Yenikapı Wreckage Project, said the wrecks were removed from the land between 2005 and 2013, and the team focused on their documentation, conservation, restoration and analysis.
Kocabaş said that the structures in the Theodosius Port, one of the most important ports around Istanbul in the Middle Ages, as well as tens of thousands of archaeological works and the world’s largest Middle Ages boat collection, were unearthed thanks to the excavations.
The oldest uncovered ship dates back 1,500 years and its restoration could take years.
Kocabaş said his team was planning to rebuild another wreck, called the Yenikapı 12.
“The Yenikapı 12 wreck, which dates back to 9th century A.D., is a trade ship and in a very good condition. The nearly 10-meter-long ship is thought to have served coastal trade and sank in the Thedosius Port because of a severe storm. The remake of the ship will draw attention to the rich maritime culture of the city. This is a very detailed process with many technical procedures. The ship was discovered in 2007 and we are now about to finish its conservation,” Kocabaş said.
He said the ship was cleaned of its salt between 2007 and 2009 for its preservation.
“Salt can react to the chemical substance used for conversation and cause deterioration. As a result of detailed analysis on the wooden pieces of the ship, we have reached new information about many areas, such as the standard units used in construction, tools and the wood used. The dimensions, shape of its lost parts and design principals of Yenikapı 12 have been determined. According to this data, after drawing the ship, illustrations and animations showing the ship’s situation on the sea and in the port were prepared,” Kocabaş said, adding that by the beginning of next year, the Yenikapı 12 would be ready for display with a desiccator used by the Istanbul University team for the first time in Turkey.
“When all these procedures are completed, the pieces of the ship will be combined and it will be ready for display. We are carrying out a long and difficult process, and the estimated time between the initial excavations and the ships going on display is nine to 10 years,” he added.
At least two wrecks every year
All 37 uncovered wrecks are being conserved, but not all will be displayed, according to excavation head Kocabaş, who said the display would likely be held at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum.
“This collection will be made up of no less than 10 to 15 ships. Actually, the conservation of the ship named Yenikapı 36 was finished in 2014. It was one of the most damaged ships, which is why it was taken under protection and restoration first. From now on, we plan to finish the conservation of at least two ships every year,” he said.
A U.S. tour to promote the project took place back in 2012, which Kocabaş took part in.
“I gave 14 conferences on Yenikapı and the wreckages in 22 days in the U.S. I had chance to speak at significant scientific centers, universities and museums there, including Harvard, the Smithsonian Institute, the Texas A&M University, the Museum of History in Raleigh, the Ocean Institute, and UCLA. I also gave conferences in Toronto and Ottawa on the invitation of our consulate general in Canada, and at the Science Museum on the invitation of our Houston Consulate General. In April, I will give three more conferences at Harvard and at the United Nations Association of Greater Boston, on the invitation of our Boston Consulate General. I generally talk about the scientific sides of the project in these conferences, but I also think they will help make a contribution to the promotion of Turkey,” Kocabaş said.