Monday, December 1, 2008

The Castle in Bodrum, Turkey

The local castle in Bodrum is a sight to behold. Not only has it been rebuilt, but it includes some dynamite museums of ancient ship wrecks and their contents, including ancient glass work and a huge collection of clay pots (amphora), the way most commodities (wine, olive oil, honey and cow bones) were transported by ship in ancient times. The display reveals how this technology developed over the years by displaying various kinds of these unique pots with handles and a tapered bottom.

The Bodrum Castle withstood several dynasties of change. Built by the Knights of St. John in 1405, it solidified their hold on the island of Rhodes and the mainland for many years until they were evicted. At the mouth of the harbor on a promontory, the castle overlooks a forest of ship masts in the modern Marina that encompasses most of the port; pictures taken in 1964 show how much has changed; at that time the number of boats seen could be counted on two hands. There are four towers to look at: English, French, German and Snake, each with its own story.

The castle houses the Turkish Underwater Archaeological museum. Two wrecks are beautifully displayed, including both a diorama complete with bubbling air hoses for the divers and their equipment, and a video demonstrating some of the techniques of underwater archeology. Since the wrecks were in relatively deep water, the divers could only spend about twenty minutes under water, meaning these projects took a huge amount of time.

The Yassi Ada 4th century Roman ship had length about 20 m and was loaded with 1100 amphoras. Discovered on 36-42 m depth in 1958, investigated by the INA in 1967, '69 and '74, it was excavated under the direction of Dr. George F. Bass, Texas A & M University. The museum reveals how the ship was built and one can stand on the foredeck and imagine sailing across the Roman wine-dark sea of the time. Also displayed are artifacts including how ancient scales for weighing, coins, lamps and other paraphernalia.

The Tektas Shipwreck excavation began in 1999, again under the direction of Dr. Bass. The ship sank between 450 and 425 B.C., the Golden Age of Classical Greece, the time when the Parthenon was being built, and of Pericles, Thucydides, Sophocles, Socrates, Herodotus, and others. It lies about 130 feet deep off a cape known as Tektas Burnu, north of ancient Teos on the western coast of Turkey. The museum contains a reconstruction of the ship complete with ancient anchors, amphoras and metal ingots in their original position in the ship and on the sea floor after the sinking occurred.

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