Uluburun, one of the oldest and wealthiest shipwrecks ever discovered

Uluburun, one of the oldest and wealthiest shipwrecks ever discovered

The Uluburun is a 3,300-year-old shipwreck discovered off the coast of Uluburun (Grand Cape), near Kaş in south-western Turkey. It is among the oldest ships ever discovered and contained one of the wealthiest and largest known assemblages of Late Bronze Age items found in the Mediterranean. The ship was carrying over 20 tons of cargo, believed to be a royal order. In total, more than 18,000 spectacular artifacts have been recovered, including precious jewels, luxurious raw materials, and even the golden seal of Egyptian Queen Nefertiti.

The Uluburun was first discovered in 1982 by Mehmed Çakir, a local sponge diver, on a steep rocky slope at a depth of 44 to 52 metres, with artifacts scattered down to 61 metres. Excavating it was a mammoth task, and required eleven consecutive campaigns of three to four months, conducted by the Institute of Nautical Archaeology, totalling 22,413 dives between 1984 and 1992.

The ship itself was 15 metres long and is the earliest known example of a ship constructed using the advanced mortise and tenon technique, where planks were joined by flat tongues of wood inserted into slots cut into the planks. The wood is Lebanese cedar, indigenous to the mountains of Lebanon, southern Turkey, and central Cyprus. The featured image is an accurate replica wreck of the Uluburun, showing how the ship would have once appeared.

The wreck site as viewed from the deeper end showing displaced anchors originally stowed near the bow. Credit: INA

At the time of sinking, the ship was carrying over 20 tons of cargo, including both raw materials and finished goods, which have been traced back to at least seven different cultures, including Mycenaean, Syro-Palestinian (forerunners of the Phoenicians), Cypriot, Egyptian, Kassite, Assyrian and Nubian.

The main cargo was approximately 10 tons of primarily Cypriot copper in the form of 354 ingots. The Uluburun also contained the earliest known intact ingots of glass; 175 of disc-shape were recovered, which were coloured with cobalt blue, turquoise, and a unique lavender.

The earliest intact glass ingots of disc shape. Chemical analyses have revealed the use of cobalt (left) and copper (right) as colouring agents. Credit: INA

Other raw materials included a ton of terebinth resin contained in around 150 Canaanite jars (most likely for incense), logs of Egyptian ebony, ostrich eggshells, elephant tusks, hippopotamus teeth, seashells, and tortoise shells.

The finished goods were just as luxurious - Egyptian objects of gold, electrum, silver, and stone; Canaanite jewellery; thousands of beads made of glass, agate, carnelian, quartz, faience, and amber; and finely crafted figurines, including a bronze female statuette, partly clad in gold, of Syro-Palestinian origin. One of the most unique and precious items was a scarab bearing the cartouche of Queen Nefertiti.

Egyptian scarab naming Queen Nefertiti. Credit: INA

Other artifacts included ivory cosmetics containers, a trumpet carved from a hippopotamus incisor, bronze tools and weapons, lead net and line sinkers, netting needles for repairing nets, fishhooks, a harpoon, a bronze trident, and wooden writing boards. However, the largest group of manufactured goods on the ship was Cypriot fine- and coarse-ware ceramics.

Some of the Cypriot ceramics found on the Uluburun. Image source .

An analysis of the artifacts that were personal possessions of the crew members, such as tools, oil lamps, and writing boards, suggests that the crew were Canaanite and/or Cypriot, although at least two were Mycenaean.

The proveniences of the artifacts suggest that the Late Bronze Age Aegean was part of an international trade network perhaps based on royal gift-giving in the Near East, in which ships sailed the Mediterranean on a circular route from Syro-Palestine to Cyprus, onto the Aegean, and occasionally as far west as Sardinia, then back home via North Africa and Egypt.

Trade routes in the Eastern Mediterranean during the Bronze Age

The Uluburun is considered one of the most important and fascinating sea wrecks ever discovered, and has provided archaeologists with an abundance of information about ancient society and culture across the Mediterranean, including Bronze Age ship building, sea routes, trading practices, and the production and exchange of raw materials and luxurious goods. Today, the remains of the Uluburun and its cargo are housed in the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology

Featured image: Replica of the Uluburun shipwreck. Image source .


Uluburun Ancient Shipwreck - Mediterranean Tourism Development Project http://www.antalyainfo.org/eng/antalya-Diving-Guide-17.aspx

Uluburun, Turkey – Institute of Nautical Archaeology

The Uluburun Shipwreck and Late Bronze Age Trade – by Cemal Pulak http://berlinarchaeology.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/pulak-2008289-310-uluburun.pdf

Uluburun – The Discovery and Excavation of the World’s Oldest Known Shipwreck by N. Fawcett and J C Zietsman (2001)

World’s oldest shipwreck reveals incredible cargo

An entire decade of archaeological investigation into what is the world’s oldest known shipwreck has revealed a vast cornucopia of ancient treasures, and the wreck was voted by Scientific American journal to be one of the ten greatest archaeological discoveries of the 20 th century.

Following the chance discovery of the wreck in 1982, archaeological excavations were carried out between 1984 and 1994 by George F. Bass and Cemal Pulak of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology. Due to the wreck’s tricky location on a steep rocky slope 50 metres beneath the surface, excavation time for each diver had to be limited to 20 minutes per dive, twice a day. The total number of dives to take place was 22,413.

The ship was carrying over 20 tons of cargo at the time of sinking, including both raw materials and finished goods. Careful mapping of the distribution of objects allowed the excavators to distinguish between the cargo and the crew’s personal belongings. The cargo included items from at least seven different cultures, including Mycenean (Greek), Syro-Palestinian (forerunners of the Phoenicians), Cypriot, Egyptian, Kassite, Assyrian and Nubian.

The main cargo was 10 tons of Cypriot copper in the form of 350 oxhide ingots (‘oxhide’ refers to the shape of the ingots, which had four legs or handles for easy lifting and transportation on horseback). Also on board was a ton of tin ingots of unknown origin. The copper and tin were likely destined to be melded into bronze.

The earliest known intact ingots of glass were present on the ship. There were 175 of them, discoid in shape, with some coloured turquoise and others cobalt blue. There was also a ton of terebinth resin contained in about 150 Canaanite jars. The resin was possibly used for incense, or the jars could have originally contained wine with the resin added to prevent the growth of bacteria.

Among the more exotic objects aboard were ebony logs from Egypt, elephant tusks and hippopotamus teeth (to create ivory inlays), tortoiseshells (to be used as soundboxes for musical instruments such as the lute), ostrich eggshells (for use as containers) and Baltic amber beads from northern Europe.

Amidst the crew’s personal belongings was found a gold scarab bearing the royal cartouche of Nefertiti, wife of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten. It is the only known seal of Nefertiti in existence and is currently exhibited at the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology in Turkey along with other artifacts from the Uluburun shipwreck.

Other cargo included jewellery, weaponry, fishing gear, tools, pottery, zoomorphic weights and traces of food including nuts, figs, olives, grapes, pomegranates, spices and charred grains. A small hinged wooden writing board, known as a diptych, was also found, and could lay claim to be the world’s oldest book except that the wax surface, on which any writing would have been inscribed, has not survived.

The ship itself was 15 metres long and is the earliest known example of a ship constructed using the advanced mortise and tenon technique, where planks were joined by flat tongues of wood inserted into slots cut into the planks.

Dendrochronological dating of a branch of fresh-cut firewood aboard the ship suggests a date of around 1306 BCE for the sinking of the ship. This fits rather well with the presence of the seal of Nefertiti, whose husband reigned during the mid-14 th century BCE.

The excavators believe the ship was sailing westward from the east Mediterranean coast when it met its doom off the shore of Uluburun. The ship’s likely trading route was to head west from the Levantine coast to Cyprus and the southern Turkish coast, then on to Crete or even Greece before travelling south to northern Africa and Egypt and returning to the Levant.

Bitterly unfortunate the fate of the ship must have been for its ancient crew, it has been a splendid stroke of luck for archaeology today to uncover such a well-preserved wealth of stunning artifacts, brimming with information about the people of the past.

The Vessel

In the exhibit, you can find a ship that represents a real-life representation of the ship near the wreckage, which came from the Levantine origin. Some believe it also may have come from Cypriot as well. While the ship was only 15 meters long, it’s believed that it could store up to 20 tons of cargo. One of the main problems for divers and recovering the ship was that the hull was severely damaged. A lot of the ship was perfectly preserved though which made excavation slightly easier.

The hull was tested and found to be made out of cedar wood. The planks were edge joined which was efficient for lengthy travelling. The technique of edge joining planks were used by a lot of Greek empires and Romans as well. Some oar fragments were found and the largest one found was 1.7 meters long. A fascinating find was how many different anchors the ship had on board which consisted of 24 stone anchors. Back then, stone anchors were relatively common and they would weigh anywhere from 120 to 210 kilograms. There were smaller anchors made that only weighed 16 to 21 kilograms.

Some of these anchors were thought to be simply spares that were meant to only be used if other anchors broke or ropes snapped. Also, these spare anchors were placed strategically inside the boat to help keep the boat balanced.

Wonderful shipwreck found in the early 1980s still one of the world’s oldest & wealthiest …

Generally most of us think of shipwrecks as old rotting wood, submerged thousands of feet beneath the ocean surface, with little other than historical value. Others may think of a rusty piece of metal that has either been abandoned or beached on a shore.

About four decades ago there was a shipwreck discovered near Grand Cape, Turkey. Historians and researchers believe that the Uluburun is over 3,000 years old. Currently, it is still one of the oldest shipwrecks ever found. But it is also one of the wealthiest and largest ships that sailed in the Late Bronze Age in the Mediterranean.

Historians believe the ship was carrying over 20 tons of cargo, which would have most likely been a direct order from royalty. The reason historians believe this is because there were more than 18,000 artifacts uncovered from the site of the ship. Included in the pile of jewels were raw materials and a golden seal of Egyptian Queen Nefertiti. After more research, the artifacts are believed to have been from seven different cultures, including Mycenaean, Syro-Palestinian, Cypriot, Egyptian, Kassite, Assyrian, and Nubian.

The ship was initially discovered in the early 1980s by a sponge diver, Mehmed Cakir. Trying to excavate the large ship was a major task, but dedicated researchers prevailed. The investigation and recovery took four months and was conducted by the Institute of Nautical Archaeology. The whole mission totaled over 22,000 separate dives and took from 1984-1992 to complete.

Uluburun was one of the first known examples of advanced mortise and tenon techniques, where planks were joined by flat pieces of wood inserted into the slots of other planks. Scientists figure that the primary material of the ship was Lebanese cedar, which is indigenous in only three places, including Turkey, where the ship was found.

Some of the Cypriot ceramics found on the Uluburun. source.

The cargo, which was mostly Cypriot copper ingots, would have weighed nearly 10 tons. Some of the ingots were colored blue, turquoise, and lavender. Historians and researchers believe that this ship carried some of the first known colored glass. Other items that the ship carried were Canaanite jars for incense, Egyptian ebony, ostrich eggshells, elephant tusks, hippo teeth, seashells, and tortoise shells.

Trade routes in the Eastern Mediterranean during the Bronze Age. source

Still more artifacts included Egyptian pieces made of gold, silver, electrum and stone, Canaanite jewelry, beads made of glass, agate carnelian, quartz, faience and amber, figurines, and a scarab of Queen Nefertiti. One does not have to be a historian and researcher to know that some of the most precious and fine jewels and artifacts listed were only meant for royalty.

Historians also took into account that there were also some personal possessions of the crew members. Some of those items included tools, oil lamps, and writing boards. By looking at the tools, researchers believe that a majority of the crew members were Canaanite or Cypriot, and at least two of them were Mycenaean.

Researchers believe that with such a large cargo, the Late Bronze Age Aegean suggests that many people were part of an international trading system. They can tell who the gifts were from and what kind of traveling route crew members would have followed. They suggest that the crews went to the Mediterranean on a circular route from Syro-Palestine to Cyprus, then to the Aegean, and occasionally Sardinia.

To date, this ship is still one of the oldest and wealthiest found. Not only have researchers gotten an understanding on just how wealthy people were, but they are also getting new insights as to what kind of societies they came from.

Ep. 016 – Old Money: The Uluburun and Gelidonya Wrecks

Our dual focus in today's episode are shipwrecks from the same region of southern Turkey. The Cape Gelidonya wreck was discovered first, making it the first ancient shipwreck to have ever been fully recovered from the sea floor. The Uluburun wreck was found later, but it is the oldest shipwreck to have yielded a substantial portion of her cargo along with a portion of the ship hull. Dr. George Bass was the head of both wreck excavations, and the theory he ultimately proposed to explain the ship's and their cargo was one that revolutionized the academic community's view of trade in the Late Bronze Age Mediterranean. Were the Uluburun and Cape Gelidonya wrecks both the ill-fated remains of voyages conducted by 'proto-Phoenecian' sailors from the Levant? Listen to today's episode to hear the evidence for yourself!

The Locations of the Uluburun and Gelidonya shipwrecks, along with the origins of many of the items from the Uluburun wreck. A selection of amphorae recovered from the Dokos shipwreck, perhaps the oldest wreck discovered, but which from none of the ship was recovered. George Bass (center left) and Peter Throckmorton (center right) discuss the layout of the Cape Gelidonya wreck site.
The lone tenon fragment recovered from the Cape Gelidonya wreck site. A general illustration of the way in which pegged mortise-and-tenon joints were used on ancient ships. A pile of copper ox-hide ingots recovered from the Cape Gelidonya wreck site.
A selection of the broken bronze tools recovered at the Cape Gelidonya wreck site. The Uluburun wreck site’s topography contour map. The copper ox-hide ingots as they lay in situ at the Uluburun wreck site.
The copper ox-hide ingots as they lay in situ at the Uluburun wreck site. Removing an individual ox-hide ingot from the Uluburun wreck. A tin ingot recovered from the Uluburun wreck.
A variety of pottery and amphorae recovered from the Uluburun wreck. Two of the glass ingots from the Uluburun wreck. Some of the expensive gold jewelry recovered from the Uluburun wreck.
The Uluburun wreck’s gold chalice, as it lay on the seabed. The stone scepter-mace, thought to have come from the Balkans. The ‘ineffective’ Canaanite deity recovered from the Uluburun wreck.
The Uluburun wreck’s diptych book after reassembly. The small portion of the keel and a garboard strake the was uncovered at Uluburun. A line drawing illustration of the portion of the Uluburun ship that was uncovered, showing the keel and the mortise-and-tenon joints on the garboard and adjoining strake.
The Uluburun wreck’s golden Egyptian scarab, bearing the cartouche of Nefertiti. A cutaway illustration of what the Uluburun ship may have looked like when fully laden with cargo.

Uluburun – Oldest Shipwreck In the World

The Uluburun is the oldest shipwreck in the world discovered by divers. Rico Besserdich unearths the secrets behind this grand ol' dame.

1300 BC: A merchant ship, laden with treasures from seven different cultures and commodities of Cypriot origin, was traveling on a 1,700-mile trade route when it sank for unknown reasons at Cape Uluburun (near Kas on the south coast of the Antalya region of Turkey). Much knowledge about prehistoric trade and nautical navigation during the late Bronze Age, including secrets that could rewrite history, began a slumber on the seabed for 3,300 long years.

1982 AD: A Turkish sponge diver discovered the remains of the wreck. This triggered euphoria among archaeologists around the world and the later recovery and analysis of the findings definitively established underwater archeology as a serious science. Science was able to answer 1,000-year-old questions, driving traditional analysts into desperation and changing the existing historic worldview substantially.

Named after the place where it was discovered (Cape Uluburun), the Uluburun is the oldest known shipwreck in the world and a finding of superlatives. She brought answers to many questions, but she also introduced many new mysteries that science has yet to explain, even today.

The Bronze Age

The Uluburun sank during the so-called Late Bronze Age. The Bronze Age – it sounds terribly old, doesn’t it? It is! It was a time when the invention of the wheel was as remarkable as the invention of social networking today.

The Bronze Age succeeded the Stone Age and is the predecessor to the Iron Age. It lasted from about 2200 to 800 BC, but did not occur everywhere at once, because different cultures experienced different stages of development.

The namesake of this period was the metal alloy bronze, which comprises 90 percent copper and 10 percent tin. The use and processing of metals was already known to human, but it was limited to sterling metals (naturally occurring pure metals), such as gold, silver and copper.

The “invention” (mainly in Europe and the Middle East) of Man’s first alloy (which was much harder than copper) triggered a worldwide change with lasting consequences. We could say the last trip of the Uluburun was, in some way, a consequence of these changes.

Along with the invention of bronze, the necessity to organise a “metallurgy chain” became apparent. Production needed tin, which was rare and not available everywhere. The appropriate logistics became essential.

Uluburun II Wreck, a replica of Bronze Age wreck at Kas (Getty Images/WaterFrame RM/Borut Furlan)

With bronze, it became possible to accumulate wealth that was easy to transport: Bronze ingots were a common payment currency of the time and where there is wealth, conflicts arise. The simultaneous emergence of heavily fortified settlements and the invention of the sword show that our ancestors experienced troubles with jealous neighbours who tried to get a piece of the pie.

Bronze also caused a serious upheaval in the social structure. The access to, and control of, resources (such as metals, metallurgy, communications and trade routes) resulted in the emergence of an upper social class and induced differentiation among people, the consequences of which we still feel even today.

The geographically uneven distribution of metal deposits (particularly tin) resulted in a far-reaching and almost global trading network that also spread cultural ideas in addition to goods. Bronze was essentially pioneering the cross-border communication of knowledge between cultures. Even today, good ol’ bronze has an essential word to say in the world of digital communication: No computer works without the elements of bronze. No bronze would mean, no online social networks.

While Uluburun sailed the seas, the world-famous bust of Nefertiti was made in Egypt. Odysseus returned home from his long odyssey. The Egyptian Pharaoh Echnaton established the first monotheistic religion. Moses’ successor Joshua led the Israelites and the Hittites dominated an area five times larger than Germany. These were turbulent times from Haithabu to Karnak, as well as at Cape Uluburun on the southern Turkish coast, and this is where a merchant ship with a cargo of priceless goods sank to its grave.

The Uluburun II, a replica of the original one, built by the Turkish scientific group � degrees” using same technologies as used in the Bronze Age, here, cruising in Aegean waters. (Photo of the Uluburun II is published with kind permission of the 360 degrees research group, Turkey)

The ship was built of cedar using the so-called “spigot technique”, which involves building the outer hull first and adding the underlying “skeleton” (the frames and bars) later. One thousand years after the demise of the Uluburun, this technique was still used to build Roman and Greek ships.

Archaeological finds in Egypt suggest that the archetype for this ship probably came from ancient Egypt. In particular, Pharaoh Echnaton drove the development of more resilient oceangoing ships to advance trade and transport at the time.

However, a fine structural difference with the Uluburun is that its pegs were not secured by wooden pins. This technique would later be called “Fenike-mortising” by the Romans. The Uluburun was certainly built for use at sea, which refutes the thesis that sailing in the Bronze Age was done exclusively within sight of the coast.

Because only about 3 percent of the ship’s original hull was recovered, drawings from ancient Egypt, specifically the pictorial representation of the “fleet of Queen Hatshepsut in the land of Punt” (1500 BC), provided a significant visual reference for reconstructing the ship.

After extensive research, we now know that the Uluburun was 15 metres long, five metres wide and had a draft of 1.4 metres. Her cargo is estimated to have been 20 tonnes. The width of the ship’s trim was six centimetres, and the pegs were at a distance of 20 centimetres.

The ship used a triangular sail, which provided a maximum speed of two nautical miles per hour, and two rudders to manoeuvre.

The Turkish research group “360” proved this ship was oceangoing in 2005. By using techniques and materials from the late Bronze Age only, the “360” group built an identical replica of Uluburun and successfully sailed the Mediterranean.

This was the probable route of the Uluburun: From her homeport on the Levantine coast, she sailed fully loaded to her (unknown) Mycenaean destination port. At night, she anchored in ports along the Turkish coast. The planned way back may have then taken her towards Marsa Matruh in northwest Egypt. The currents and winds in the area suggest such a route, as the Uluburun was unable to cross winds due to her simple sail.

Read the rest of this article in 2013 Issue 1 Volume 124 of Asian Diver magazine by subscribing here or check out all of our publications here.

10 Most Valuable Shipwreck Treasures Ever Found

Titanic is the most famous shipwreck in the history of mankind, but nevertheless there are thousands of shipwrecks that have occurred in our vast ocean. Every shipwreck treasure has a vast history behind it, so are the ships. Many of the most valuable shipwrecks treasures are yet to be found and recovered. Treasure hunting has become something interesting and has gotten many people fortunate and rich. Treasure hunters are an example of how to become rich from the oceans. There are many companies in the world that are hunting for lost treasures in the sea bed. Some of the most famous and amazing treasure hunters are Mel Fisher, Robert F. Marx, Philip Masters, E. Lee Spence, and Brent Brisben. Not only have the professionals found the treasures, but also amateur treasure hunters and even the common man. So, which is the most valuable shipwreck treasures ever found in the history of the world? Today, we are going to list down the 10 most valuable shipwreck treasures recovered that fetched millions of dollars to the treasure seekers.

10. Belitung Shipwreck – $90 million

Belitung Shipwreck is also known as Tang shipwreck or Batu Hitam shipwreck that occurred around 830 AD. The wreck is of an Arabian dhow that sailed from Africa to China. The ship successfully completed the journey from Africa to China but sank during the return journey near Belitung Island, Indonesia. The mystery of why the ship was so far from the expected route back from China is still unclear.

In 1998, the wreck was discovered by fishermen in the Gelasa Strait in 51 feet (16 m) of water. The wreck location was purchased from the fishermen and a local Indonesian company was licensed to carry out excavation of the site. The wreck known as the “Tang treasure” held three main types of wares in the form of bowls: Yue ware from Zhejiang Province, 60,000 items of “Dusun” storage jars known as Changsha ware and White-ware, manufactured in the Ding kilns – earliest known blue and white dishes. Surprisingly, the ship of carrying cargo from variety of influences and markets are persistent. The cargo had the largest Tang dynasty gold cup ever found, gold bowls, green-splashed bowls from Iran, motifs from Central Asia and Persia, gilt-silver boxes, gold dishes, and many valuable and expensive artifacts from various dynasties. The treasure is currently valued to be around $90 million.

9. Ship of Gold – $100-150 million

SS Central America was known as the Ship of Gold that sank with more than 420 people in 1857 due to a hurricane. The ship was carrying a whopping 14,000 kg of gold and this event contributed to the panic of 1857. The ship was heavy loaded with tons of gold that was caught in a Category 2 hurricane while off the coast of the Carolinas.

It took nearly 100 years to recover the sunken treasure of Ship of Gold. In 1988, the shipwreck was discovered using Bayesian search theory and a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) by the Columbus-America Discovery Group of Ohio. Huge amounts of gold were recovered from the shipwreck that was valued to be around $100-150 million. A gold ingot weight 36 kg was sold for a record $36 million. After a legal battle, 92% of the gold was awarded to the discovery team in 1996.

8. The Antikythera Treasures – $120–160 million

The Antikythera shipwreck happened more than 2000 years ago in the second quarter of 1st century BC. The ship sank near the Greek island of Antikythera on the edge of the Aegean Sea, northwest of Crete. The shipwreck was first discovered more than 100 years ago by sponge divers in 1900. From 2012 till 2014, the shipwreck yielded more treasures. Interestingly the shipwreck yielded the world’s first computer that was used to track the movement of sun, planets and the moon. Some of the treasures recovered were bronze chair, gold jewelry, jars carved with symbols from 1st century BC, high quality glass artifacts, statues made of marble and bronze, giant warriors statues, gold coins and much more. The treasure is valued to be around $120-160 million.

7. Treasure of the S.S. Republic – $120 – 180 million

SS Republic, a steamship was lost in a hurricane in 1865 off the coast of Georgia en route to New Orleans. The ship was originally named the Tennessee. In 2003, deep-water shipwreck explorers discovered the hidden treasures of the S.S Republic off the coast of Savannah, Georgia. The ship carried enormous amounts of gold and silver coins, artifacts and other valuable items. One-third of the silver and gold coins were recovered by the shipwreck explorers that were worth $75 million. The total value of the treasure is estimated to be $120-180 million. The treasure recovered contains more than 51,000 gold and silver coins, artifacts, bottles, redware tea sets, statues, cups and saucers, jars and barrels. The search and recovery were depicted in a National Geographic Society TV documentary Civil War Gold.

6. Titanic Trasures – $190-200 million

Titanic shipwreck is the most famous shipwreck of all time. The RMS Titanic was a British passenger liner which was carrying more than 1,500 passengers and crew-members on-board when it sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on 15 April 1912 after colliding with an iceberg. The ship was carrying expensive artifacts, gold, diamonds, silver, and other valuable items worth more than $300 million from high-profile and wealthy people.

Ever since the discovery of the ship in 1985 many artifacts, gold and silver coins, porcelain dishes, jars and other valuables have been put on display at various locations across the world. Many artifacts from the Titanic shipwreck were auctioned on September 2015 and few other items valued to be $189 million were auctioned in 2012.

5. The Diamond Shipwreck – Still being valued

The Diamond Shipwreck recovery is one of the biggest shipwreck treasure finds in history. The ship is from the 16th century Portuguese trading vessels that were ascertained after few investigations that the ship was named Bom Jesus. The ship was sailing from Lisbon in 1533 when the shipwreck occurred. It is believed that the ship wrecked due to a heavy storm near the coast of West Africa. The ship was carrying huge amounts of valuable metals, ingots of copper and weapons from the era.

Geologist working for De Beers unearthed one of the biggest treasures from sea worth millions of dollars. They uncovered tons of ingots, enormous amounts of gold coins, more than 50 elephant tusks, silver, copper, swords and other weapons from King João III period. The total value of the treasure is still unknown and is being valued.

4. The British Treasury Ship or The SS Gairsoppa – $210 million

The British Treasury Ship or the SS Gairsoppa was a British steam merchant ship built-in 1919 and operated during the Second World War. In 1941 the ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat which left the ship sinking with 85 passengers. The ship had exhausted its entire fuel and was on its way to Galway, Ireland when the ship wrecked. The ship was carrying 200 tons of silver when the ship sank.

In 2011, the ship’s wreck was found by Odyssey Marine after searching for nearly two months. The wreckage was found near the coast of Ireland. The Odyssey Marine recovered 1,218 silver ingots weighing more than 40 tons which was valued to be over $210 million.

3. Whydah Gally – $400 million

Whydah Gally is a fully rigged galley ship built originally for passengers, cargo and as a slave ship. The ship was captured by pirates during its return voyage of the triangle trade. It was captured by the pirate Captain Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy and referred the capture as a flagship. The famous pirate is known to have captured many more ships on their way and finally wrecked due to heavy storms. The ship went missing for nearly 260 years until 1984 when the shipwreck was discovered by Barry Clifford. The Whydah find is the only authenticated and verified Golden Age pirate shipwreck ever discovered on earth. The shipwreck yielded treasures worth more than $400 million. The treasure trove contained more than 200,000 artifacts, silver and gold coins, canons and the ship’s bell was also retrieved. Under the sponsorship of National Geographic Society, the artifacts recovered from the shipwreck goes on a tour all over the United States in the form of exhibitions.

2. Atocha Motherlode – $450 million

The estimated cache recovered from the Spanish ship Nuestra Señora de Atocha is known as the Atocha Motherlode. The Spanish ship carrying tons of ingots, copper, jewels, silver, gold and other precious metals sank in 1622 off the Florida Keys. It killed all the passengers on board except three sailors and two slaves. When the news of the ship reached Havana, Spanish authorities sent five ships to salvage the shipwreck but unfortunately more hurricanes and 55 feet deep-sea made the salvage a failure. The Spanish authorities undertook the salvage operations for years. They scattered treasures of one of the ship –Santa Margarita were half recovered using Indian slaves. The lethal operation involved diving to the bottom of the sea and recovering an item with a large brass diving bell. The Atocha was never recovered.

In 1985, Mel Fisher (a famous treasure-hunter) found the Atocha and the motherlode of gold, silver, cooper and emeralds were finally discovered after spending more than 16 years. The estimated worth of the treasure recovered is $450 million, which is only half the treasure that went down with Atocha. Mel Fisher’s company Salvors Inc. found many other shipwreck treasures in the area including treasures of Santa Margarita. The stern castle, the wealthiest part of Atocha is yet to be found. Still missing are 300 silver bars and 8 bronze cannons, among other things.

Excavation of the Uluburun shipwreck near Kaş in southern Turkey has yielded one of the largest and richest assemblages of Bronze Age trade goods and raw materials ever found. The finds provide significant insight into, and the clearest glimpse of, Late Bronze Age maritime and terrestrial trade in the Mediterranean. The 1984–1994 excavation of the shipwreck, under the auspices of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University, revealed an immense cargo of raw materials, manufactured goods, a collection of premium, exotic items, personal effects, items for shipboard use, ship's equipment, and a small portion of the hull. The conservation and analysis of nearly seventeen tons of artifacts recovered from the site demonstrate the diversity and complexity of the assemblage.

Cemal Pulak, Texas A&M University.

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The Uluburun ship’s cargo consisted mostly of raw materials that were trade items, which before the ship’s discovery were known primarily from ancient texts or Egyptian tomb paintings.

The cargo matches many of the royal gifts listed in the Amarna letters found at El-Amarna, Egypt.

The Institute of Nautical Archaeology began excavating in July 1984 under the direction of its founder, George F. Bass, and was then turned over to INA’s Vice President for Turkey, Cemal Pulak, who directed the excavation from 1985 to 1994.

The wreck lay between 44 and 52 meters deep on a steep, rocky slope riddled with sand pockets. Half of the staff members who aided in the excavation lived in a camp built into the southeastern face of the promontory, which the ship most likely hit, while the other half lived aboard the Virazon, INA’s research vessel at the time.

The excavation site utilized an underwater telephone booth and air-lifts. The mapping of the site was done by triangulation. Meter tapes and metal squares were used as an orientation aid for excavators.

Since the completion of the excavation in September 1994, all efforts have been concentrated on full-time conservation, study, and sampling for analysis in the conservation laboratory of the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology in Turkey.


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Bass, George F. “A Bronze Age Shipwreck at Uluburun (Kaş): 1984 Campaign.” American Journal of Archaeology 90, no. 3 (1986): 269-74. doi:10.2307/505687.

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Cheryl Haldane. “Direct Evidence for Organic Cargoes in the Late Bronze Age.” World Archaeology , vol. 24, no. 3, 1993, pp. 348–360. JSTOR , JSTOR, jstor.org/stable/124713.

Muhly, James “Looking Back at Fifty Years of Nautical Archaeology” Expedition Magazine 56.2 (September 2014): n. pag. Expedition Magazine . Penn Museum, September 2014 Web. 27 Oct 2017 penn.museum/sites/expedition/?p=21956>

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Kim. “Posts about Uluburun Shipwreck on This Wild Life…” This Wild Life… , 5 Oct. 2010, thiswildlife.wordpress.com/tag/uluburun-shipwreck/.

Madmetal75, director. Uluburun Shipwreck at Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology .

Watch the video: Divers Say Theyve Discovered The Worlds Oldest Intact Shipwreck At The Bottom Of The Black Sea