Not sure how I’ve missed the scattered news reports on this one over the past few years, but the Kizilburun Shipwreck ‘dig’ seems to be rather significant. As the name might suggest, the site is off the coast of western Turkey and is largely the project of Deborah Carlson (and others) from Texas A&M. The wreck itself is interesting because it was carrying some 50 tons of marble, obviously destined for some major temple-type building project. This past week, National Geographic was alone among the newsmedia in giving coverage to Carlson’s identification of the cargo’s ill-fated destination. An excerpt:
The Temple of Apollo at Claros, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) from Kızılburun, was at the top of her list during the July 2007 election holiday. She drove up to the deserted site and knew she was on to something when she looked at the fallen-down marble columns scattered on the marshy land. “I was struck pretty much right away,” she recalls. The columns were Doric, the same as the marble on the ship, and looked like the right size. She waded around in the spring water that floods the site, checking chunks of columns with a tape measure. “I thought, wow, this is definitely a candidate.”
A year-and-a-half later, it looks like Carlson’s first impression was right. Using a variety of techniques, she has linked the column in the Kızılburun shipwreck to its likely intended destination, the Claros temple—as well as to its origin, a marble quarry 200 miles (322 kilometers) away on an island in Turkey’s Sea of Marmara.
To figure out where the marble might have been going, Carlson started by ruling out homes and other small buildings. If the drums were stacked, the column would have been huge—more than 30 feet (9 meters) tall—so Carlson knew it must have been intended for a monument. She narrowed down the list of temples near the shipwreck to those of the right architectural style that were standing or being worked on in the first century BC—the date for the wreck, based on the amphoras (two-handled jars) the ship was also carrying. That’s how she ended up at Claros.
Like the famous Temple of Apollo at Delphi, the Claros temple featured an oracle. When visitors came, the oracle, a priest, drank water from a sacred spring and made cryptic pronouncements on behalf of the god, who was associated with truth and prophecy.
Fans of Tacitus might remember Germanicus’ Alexander-like trip to the oracle of Apollo at Claros, with the unAlexander-like presaging of his impending death …
- Ancient Shipwreck’s Stone Cargo Linked to Apollo Temple (National Geographic)
- THE KIZILBURUN SHIPWRECK (webpage at the INA)
- Mysteries of the Oracles By Philipp Vandenberg (chapter on Claros via Googlebooks)
- The Oracles of Apollo in Asia Minor By Herbert William Parke (excerpt about Germanicus via Googlebooks)