Yenikapī Shipwreck Project

Did you know that goldfish can be an important archaeological tool? Neither did we!

However, the director of the Yenikapī shipwreck project, Dr. Ufuk Kocabaş, told us about an important use for what is usually considered a household pet. It seems that the little fish love mosquito larvae. As wood from the 36 ancient shipwrecks found at the Yehikapi site undergoes a conservation process in tanks of water, it must be protected from the modern day pests of bacteria and mosquitoes. Goldfish love mosquito larvae and are placed in the conservation tanks. (We think this is a solution Houstonians could get behind!)

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Dr. Kocabaş will be in Houston next week at a presentation at the Houston Museum of Natural Science to reveal more about the discovery of the long-lost glorious Byzantine port of Theodosious with the world’s largest collection of shipwrecks. It was here that the rarities of the world arrived and where the world wiped its feet.

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The gargantuan dig at Yenikapī continues to disgorge an eclectic mix of the marvelous and the mundane. Apart from the 36 ships dating from the seventh to the 11th centuries—including four naval galleys—archeologists have dug up more than 170 gold coins, hundreds of clay amphorae for wine and oil, ivory cosmetics cases, bronze weights and balance scales, finely-wrought wooden combs and exquisite porcelain bowls. They’ve recovered bones of camels, bears, ostriches, elephants and lions—probably imported from Africa for entertainments at the Hippodrome, suggests Kocabaş. Some 15 human skulls retrieved from a dry well may have belonged to executed criminals. Iron anchors have been recuperated, objects so highly prized in medieval Byzantium that they are noted in the dowry records of wealthy merchants’ daughters. The oldest find is an 8000-year-old Late Neolithic hut containing stone tools and ceramics—the earliest settlement ever located on the city’s historic peninsula. One particularly mind-boggling find, discovered aboard a ninth-century cargo ship, was a basket of 1200-year-old cherries nestled next to the ship’s captain’s ceramic kitchen utensils—a cooking grill, hot pot, pitcher and drinking cup—as if waiting for the ancient mariner’s imminent return.

Learn more about what Dr. Kocabaş terms the ‘discovery of a lifetime’ at a talk next Thursday night at the Houston Museum of Natural Science at 6:30 pm.

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