The Kitten Shipwreck: Archaeology and Reconstruction of a Black Sea Merchantman
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In the early 1980s Bulgarian archaeologists of the newly established Centre for Underwater Archaeology at Sozopol discovered the remains of a post-medieval ship in the southern Bay of Kitten, in the lee of Cape Urdoviza. Between 2000 and 2003, the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University and a team from the Bulgarian Centre for Underwater Archaeology returned to the site to complete the first excavation of a post-medieval shipwreck in the Black Sea. The well-preserved vessel, lost in the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Selim III (1789-1807), featured constructional characteristics seen in Iberian shipbuilding tradition, such as scarfed floors and futtocks and filling pieces between the frames. Analysis of the Kitten ship permitted the author to reconstruct the whole-molding process used by the shipwright to build the vessel. The futtock-floor hook-scarphs appear to be the identifying part of the molding process. Morphologically identical scarfs have also been observed on Mediterranean wrecks such as Culip VI (14th century), Yassiada (16th century) and Sardineax (17th century), which suggests that the Kitten ship is a very late example of a Mediterranean-wide shipbuilding tradition that developed in the Middle Ages and from which the Atlantic vessel descended. It also points that the Black Sea maritime culture was an integral part of Mediterranean seafaring tradition. The dissertation offers an overview of the artifact assemblage raised from the Kitten shipwreck. Fragments of an iconostas prove that at the time of sinking the vessel was operated by Christians. The smoking paraphernalia found on the wreck provides opportunity to correct the dating of some pipe bowl types proposed by previous scholars. Personal belongings open a window into the life of the crew of a Black Sea merchantman. Although the ethnicity of the crew cannot be determined at this time, a group of copper galley ware suggests that they may have been Bulgarian. An unsolved mystery is presented by the presence of a navigational instrument, probably an octant, on board.
Batchvarov, Kroum Nickolaev (2009). The Kitten Shipwreck: Archaeology and Reconstruction of a Black Sea Merchantman. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from