The Recovery, Reconstruction, and Analysis of Yenikapi 14 (YK 14), a Middle Byzantine Merchant Ship from the Theodosian Harbor Excavations at Yenikapi, Istanbul
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Since 2005, salvage excavations by the Istanbul Archaeological Museums associated with the Marmaray Project, a major expansion of the transportation infrastructure of Istanbul, Turkey, uncovered 36 Byzantine shipwrecks in the ancient Theodosian Harbor, one of the main port facilities of Byzantine Constantinople. At the invitation of the Istanbul Archaeological Museums, Cemal Pulak of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University directed the recording and recovery of eight of the Yenikapı shipwrecks between 2005 and 2008. This dissertation is an analysis and reconstruction of the hull of one of these ships, Yenikapı Wreck 14 (YK 14), dated to c. 900 C.E., based on extensive documentation and cataloging of the ship’s surviving hull timbers between 2009 and 2013. YK 14 was about 14.5 meters long and 3.5-4.0 meters in beam. It was built primarily of oak, probably in the Sea of Marmara region. Significant features include a nearly flat bottom, light scantling, and a relative lack of major longitudinal timbers in the hull. The hull was built using a combination of ‘shell-first’ and ‘skeleton-first’ construction methods: the hull planking was edge-fastened with wooden dowels called coaks from the keel to the waterline, a traditional ‘shell-first’ method, while the upper hull was built ‘skeleton-first’ using pre-erected frames to which the upper hull planking was fastened. The ship was in use for a number of years based on evidence of hull repairs, and was propelled with a single mast and lateen sail and steered with a pair of quarter rudders, a typical configuration during the Byzantine period. Unlike some other Byzantine-era shipwrecks, YK 14’s lightly-built hull may have been designed for short coastal voyages in the Sea of Marmara region rather than for open-sea voyages. YK 14 shows many similarities in construction and design to other Yenikapı ships dating to the ninth and tenth centuries, suggesting that it was typical of many vessels used in trade with the capital in this period. YK 14 is one of the latest known examples of the Mediterranean shell-based shipbuilding tradition, which was gradually being replaced by skeleton-first ship construction methods between 500 and 1000 C.E.
Jones, Michael Rice (2013). The Recovery, Reconstruction, and Analysis of Yenikapi 14 (YK 14), a Middle Byzantine Merchant Ship from the Theodosian Harbor Excavations at Yenikapi, Istanbul. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from