Cape Gelidonya was one of the oldest shipwrecks off the coast of south-central Turkey in the late Bronze Age period. Having been a composition of copper and tin, wasn’t always readily available and was required for the trade and transportation of various commodities. The history behind Cape Gelidonya dates centuries back. Cape Gelidony was the Chelidonium peninsula of Pliny in Lycia. At about 1200 B.C., a container ship seemed to have ripped its bottom open on a pinnacle of rock that goes up to the surface of the sea, almost off the northeast side of Devecitasi Adasi, the largest of the islands. This led to the artefacts spilling out and sinking. The ship in due course settled at the bottom of the sea, resting on a large boulder around 50 meters or so away towards the north.

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Inspecting Cape Gelidonya Shipwreck_©

Cape Gelidonya was discovered in 1960, becoming the first ever ancient shipwreck to have been excavated, in full, from where it was resting in the seabed. The wreck is quite important in terms of the development of nautical archaeology as it was one of the first wrecks to be found, though the wreck did not bring back much fascinating artefacts and pieces of evidence. It was interesting for archaeologists to put their techniques into reality.

The shipwreck was first discovered by a sponge diver in 1954, as he worked his trade and shared his discovery with a journalist and an amateur archaeologist working in the region, Peter Throckmorton, who was able to locate the shipwreck in 1959. He was able to recognize the age and importance of the site, and contacted the University Museum at the University of Pennsylvania expecting they would organize an excavation of the site, but was disappointed.

George Bass in 1960, became the first archaeologist to head the complete excavation of this shipwreck from the seabed. The field of nautical archaeology was upcoming, Bass adopted several techniques from terrestrial excavation and adjusted them to the underwater setting. They organized a camp to check on the wreck. Initially, several things from the shipwreck had been taken off. They tried different techniques to check out the existing artefacts. The artefacts found from the wreck were a lot of solid deposits of bronze, a stack of ingots in different shapes. In the later stages of diving and excavating the shipwreck, they found thousands of glass beads differing in shape, probably part of trading material. They found a small pocket of sand containing a set of small “apothecary’s weights” made of lead, a “snake-headed” bracelet, a complete axe, and a chisel in nearly perfect condition.

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Investigation at the shipwreck site_©

Three scarabs were discovered thus, of which, two were of faience and one of ivory. The scarabs had pictographic inscriptions and a polished stone mace head. At the end of the excavation, they found about two hundred objects, including a bronze spade. Another scarab was found along with more crystals and another mace head. Only one lamp was found with a few other particles of evidence of the food carried along with the crew such as fish bones, olive pits etc. chopped wood and twigs were also found, probably used as firewood. Tin oxide from tin was also found in the shipwreck.

The J.M. Kaplan Fund donation came during the time they were studying the metal cargo of the Cape Gelidonya. The ship brought tools during the trade, copper and tin ingots and a variety of broken bronze tools, intended to be recycled. In 1987, Bass returned to the site and discovered there was more to find. His team and Bass returned multiple times in the next decade and finally again in 2010, fifty years after the first original period. The objects recovered in 1960 had been carefully studied and well-published by the standards of the day. The techniques of conservation, analysis and documentation have advanced since then. Also, the artefacts recovered in the past decades must be added to the published record of the objects recovered from this site. This is likely since the shipwreck, like a tomb, is rare in archaeology. 

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The scarabs found from the wreck _©


Their team of two metallurgists, a conservator, and the director of the project, started working together in 2015. Two years later, the lack of funds became a threat to the team. Towards the end of the season, the conservation went over budget. The metallurgists’ job is to study metals and the conservator is a must. All is lost if the conservator is not there to prepare the articles for study and preserve them later so that they are still existing for study in the future.

There is the struggle of removing years of marine growth and hardened deposits without destroying the original surfaces so that they can see the form and features of each artefact. There are time-consuming tasks of desalination and then drying the objects. After these processes, they are passed on to the conservator to restore any damage made in the sampling process. Finally, the metals must be combined so that they do not deteriorate in the open air. Written records and photos of each object, in the process, were kept. The conservator also had the technical hacks to produce high-quality images suitable for the final publication in both 2D and also 3D photogrammetry formats. Before conserving, the ship’s copper cargo had to be desalinated, and left in containers to dry out.

Bronze tools_©

Asu Selen Özcan first visited the Bodrum Research Center on a trip with her university professor. She was interested in the pottery she saw in the lab. She completed her degree and returned to Bodrum for an internship in 2016. It became clear to all in the lab that Selen has “good hands” with handling artefacts. Her skills, attention to detail, and general work ethic convinced them that she could be the one to trust with conserving the metal cargo from Cape Gelidonya. Selen accepted their invitation. The J.M. Kaplan-funded Responsive Preservation Initiative helped in funding.


  • Caorc (2019) Kaplan grant helps Conserve Precious Bronze Age cargo, caorc. caorc. Available at: (Accessed: March 15, 2023). 
  • Institute of Nautical Archaeology (2022) Cape Gelidonya late bronze age shipwreck excavation, Institute of Nautical Archaeology. Available at: (Accessed: March 15, 2023). 
  • Huebner, B. (2022) EP. 016 – old money: The Uluburun and Gelidonya Wrecks, Ep. 016 – Old Money: The Uluburun and Gelidonya Wrecks. Available at: (Accessed: March 15, 2023). 
  • The legacy of the Cape Gelidonya Wreck and Bronze Age maritime trade in the Mediterranean (2020) ANU. The Australian National University. Available at:,overseas%20exchange%20in%20the%20Mediterranean. (Accessed: March 15, 2023). 
  • A bronze age shipwreck (1961) Expedition Magazine A Bronze Age Shipwreck Comments. Penn Museum. Available at: (Accessed: March 15, 2023). 
  • Institute of Nautical Archaeology (2022) Cape Gelidonya late bronze age shipwreck excavation, Institute of Nautical Archaeology. Available at: (Accessed: March 15, 2023). 

Looking back at fifty years of nautical archaeology (2014) Expedition Magazine Looking Back at Fifty Years of Nautical Archaeology Comments. Penn Museum. Available at: (Accessed: March 15, 2023).


Hello, this is Shazia Haris an aspiring architectural writer. Her passion for writing has led her to RTF. She is grateful to have made it here and is eager to kick-start a new path in writing. She looks forward to being a trailblazer.