Department of Classics

Dan Davis Explores Shipwrecks in the Black Sea

Tue, August 14, 2007

"The site lies at 130 meters and is dubbed Chersones A. It lies about 12 nautical miles off that ancient site near Sevastopol, Ukraine. It's a 10th century (or so) Byzantine merchant ship loaded with single-handled, flat-bottomed jars. We'll survey the wreck site and environs first with multibeam sonar, then map the wreck with our Remotely Operated Vehicle Hercules. After that, we plan to implant several conservation experiments around the site for environmental monitoring and decay analysis. Then finally, if there's time, we may excavate some of the ceramics for sampling purposes.

We'll spend about a week here before heading to our second site, Sinop D, so called because it lies off Sinop in northern Turkey, half way along the Black Sea coast. This site is a 6th century, Byzantine merchant ship lying in about 320 meters. It is within the Black Sea's anoxic layer, and is perfectly preserved, with mast still standing and rope still visible. But it's completely buried up to the rails, so we plan to clean the top of the wreck for photography and mosaics, then plant a number of conservation/environmental monitoring experiments around the site. Then, if we have time and the Turkish authorities wish, we will raise more artifacts for sampling. The ship returns to Istanbul on 28 August.

I'm serving as one of the project's marine archaeologists, under the directorship of Professor Bridget Buxton, who hails from the History Department of the University of Rhode Island. Some may recall that she came to our Classics Department in March and gave a paper on the mapping of the Roman empire (one of her several interests). She's also the deputy director of the Institute of Archaeological Oceanography at URI.Live operations, 24/7, can be seen via streaming video at Institute of Archaeological Oceanography's website. Just click on the "live video" link in the upper right-hand corner under "What's New".

The video uses the cameras on Hercules, and you are looking at one of the first live archaeological shipwreck excavations ever conducted remotely and in deepwater.

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