Archeologists in Turkey excavate 8 shipwrecks from the Byzantine Empire

By Matt Bradwell  |  Jan. 1, 2015 at 3:28 PM
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ISTANBUL, Turkey, Jan. 1 (UPI) -- Archeologists in Turkey uncovered a large group of Byzantine-era shipwrecks in an ongoing excavation in Istanbul's Yenikapi district.

Researchers recovered six round ships and naval galleys in addition to fishing boats, coasters and one large merchant ship.

"Never before has such a large number and types of well-preserved vessels been found at a single location," study author Cemal Pulak, of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University, said in a press statement, adding, "Even more fascinating is the fact that we can now trace how ship construction and ship design changed over the course of nearly half a millennium."

More than just the field-wide thrill of recovering extremely old objects, the find offers archeologists rare insight into the engineering technology of the day.

Some specimens were built shell first while others were built in the modern skeleton-first method. According to researchers, this means shipbuilders made the switch between the 5th and 11th centuries.

"It is through meticulous and time-consuming detective work that we slowly begin to understand how these ships were built, modified, overhauled and used," Pulak told Live Science.

"By such means we try to understand the minds of the shipbuilders and their design and conceptualization processes in order to better comprehend the history of science and engineering."

The ships will be displayed in a planned exhibition in Istanbul, although Pulak says he expects restoration to take several years. The study was published in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology.

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