Beneath the Waves: What Shipwrecks, Sunken Cities, and Forgotten Harbors Reveal About Ancient Civilizations

The phrase "Egyptian Archaeology" immediately conjures up an image of a hot, dry, dusty landscape possibly with a few pyramids in the distance. While not inaccurate, it is only part of the picture. Most civilizations, ancient and modern, thrive on long-distance trade. And for countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea that means port cities, ships, and shipping have always played an integral part in their prosperity. But it has only been within the last 50 years that archaeologists have turned their attention to the physical remains beneath the waves.

A Shipwreck, a Scarab, and a Cylinder Seal: A Snapshot of Long Distance Trade in the New Kingdom

In the late 14th century B.C., a ship carrying over 20 tons of cargo sank off the coast of Turkey. But this ancient tragedy has proved to be one of the most exciting archaeological finds of the 20th century! For the Uluburun shipwreck, as it is now known, is that rarest of discoveries, a moment frozen in time. Its contents can be assigned to at least seven different cultures ranging from Greece to Mesopotamia and Syria to Nubia. The shipwreck, the oldest found to date, reveals the tangible evidence of the vibrant Mediterranean trading network only alluded to in the Amarna letters.