Into the depths.
Noticing that I would soon be accompanying Grade 5 students to the Istanbul Archeological Museum during their Ancient Civilizations Unit of Inquiry, I invited a friend from Ireland to go with me and check it out. I wanted to get my bearings before taking the students and I’m so glad I did! Although we only made it into two of the three vast buildings, our eyes and minds were full from the experience. The museum houses artifacts from the centuries and it would be nearly impossible to see everything in one day. As in many ancient cities, there is scaffolding and renovations happening all around the grounds. I can’t imagine the expense of taking care of an ancient city! One could easily start digging in a grassy garden and unearth an ancient arch, pottery or who knows what! This modern city has been built on top of many cities that came before it. Although the treasures of this fine museum are remarkable, I was most captivated by a special exhibition called Stories From The Harbor, Shipwrecks of Yenikapi.
Just south of Sultanahmet, the popular tourist part of the city, where many famous Istanbul mosques and shopping bazaars are located, lays the Sea of Marmara and the Theodosian harbour. In 2004, during a transportation project that was underway, a great discovery was made. Under the sea, in an area called Yenikapi, a total of 37 shipwrecks were found, unbelievably preserved in a water grave. The Yenikapi wrecks constitute the largest collection of shipwrecks ever found in one place. These thrity-seven boats vary from long warships (galleys) to sea-going traders and even include small, local trading vessels. The boats date from the 5th-11th centuries and included a surprising artifact inventory. This amazing archeological find sheds light not only on the trade business of the harbor city, and Byzantine capital, Constantinople, but on vessels of the period and everyday life during the Ottoman and Byzantine periods.
The special exhibition was of the highest caliber. Multimedia video and interactive displays delighted and mesmerized me as I pushed buttons to see how a thunderstorm at sea could easily set a ship off course and lead to its demise. Other videos showed the common trade routes through this area of the world and gave information on what was carried on the ships. Not only did they carry a plethora of vessels but also coins, jewelry, candles, leather sandals and rigging equipment, to include ropes and anchors. I was most surprised to see nuts and seeds, like peach seeds and walnut shells, on display. Skeletons are also a part of the findings and provide a frightening reminder about all the lives that have been lost at sea. Another video, with the speed of a factory, showed how these beautiful, old ships were crafted.
As we were leaving we stopped by a beautiful, outdoor café on the grounds for a cup of tea. The tables were placed amongst the many ruins and helped to provide a lovely time of reflection.
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