November 21, 2017 | Author: Angelo_Colonna | Category: Mycenaean Greece, 2nd Millennium Bc, Bronze Age, Archaeology
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SAILING BETWEEN THE AEGEAN AND THE ORIENT IN THE SECOND MILLENNIUM BC* After arriving at this conference with my paper already written, I happened to read two items pertinent to the subject. First was an article by Sharon Begley, Newsweek’s Science Editor, entitled “The Science Wars.”1 In it the author gave examples of how the practice of science — including genetics, astronomy, and other fields one might consider less subjective than archaeology — is “subject to the political, cultural and social inf luences of the time,” although “it is not that evil scientists set out to enshrine the prejudices of the day in their research conclusions. But as mere mortals, they cannot escape their inf luence.” That seems to have been the case as much fifty years ago as it is today. Simply to speak of the Aegean and the Orient in the second millennium BC, for example, makes no sense. During part of that millennium, seafaring Minoans were somehow connected, at least in trade, with people who used a West Semitic language, as Philip Betancourt mentioned on the first day of the conference. In the same millennium, however, we must consider the mainlanders — the Mycenaeans, or Late Bronze Age Greeks — and there is no evidence that the earliest Greeks who entered Greece arrived with any tradition of seafaring. Because of Greece’s later maritime power, which continues to this day with Greece’s great merchant f leet, scholars have assumed that this power went far back in time. Another example of how modern inf luences affect our view of the past appeared as I perused a second-hand book catalogue that I had brought with me to Cincinnati. The catalogue is divided into sections on Egypt, the Near East, and, thirdly, Greece and Rome. I wondered why, in this day, Porphyrios Dikaios’ volumes on Sotira and Enkomi, and Hector Catling’s book on Cypriot bronzework, were listed in the section devoted to Greece and Rome. Similarly, during the first sessions of the conference some attendees seemed to speak of Late Bronze Age Cyprus as if it were in the Aegean, which could certainly cloud perceptions of the relations between “East and West” in the second millennium BC. With those two observations in mind, I turn to the paper as originally written: In the concluding sentence of The Aegean and the Orient in the Second Millennium B.C.,2 Helene Kantor dared to question the prevailing view that Minoans dominated international maritime trade until the downfall of Knossos. “After the close of the MM II period, and throughout the later part of the Second Millennium,” she wrote, “only the sailors, merchants, and craftsmen of Mycenaean Greece can justifiedly lay claim to the honor of forming the links connecting the Aegean with the Orient.”3 By keeping the trade in Aegean hands, Kantor fell victim to beliefs that were almost universally held during the first half of this century.4 Excavations of ancient shipwrecks conducted since 1960 have provided firsthand evidence, unavailable when Kantor wrote, of the traffic in goods and the mechanisms for the spread of ideas between East and West during the Late Bronze Age, especially the fourteenth

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Italics used in quotations from KANTOR are mine, for emphasis. Newsweek (April 21, 1997) 54-57. KANTOR. Ibid. 103. G.F. BASS, “Beneath the Wine Dark Sea: Nautical Archaeology and the Phoenicians of the Odyssey,” in J.E. COLEMAN and C.A. WALZ (eds.), Greeks and Barbarians: Essays on the Interactions between Greeks and NonGreeks in Antiquity and the Consequences for Eurocentrism (1997) 71-101.


George F. BASS

and thirteenth centuries BC.5 Had she been able to take this evidence into consideration, would she have drawn the same conclusions about Mycenaean traders? How much the entire field of preclassical archaeology has changed in the past half century is revealed by the very first sentence in Kantor’s detailed work: “The absolute chronology of Aegean archaeology can be established only by correlations with the historical cultures of the Near East.”6 That no longer is the case. What seems to be a log of firewood or dunnage, with part of its outermost surface seemingly preserved, was carried on the ship that sank at Uluburun, Turkey. It is doubtful that all the Aegean pottery, swords, spearheads, glass relief beads, and razors on board were heirlooms. The log was presumably cut about the time the ship set out on her final voyage. Peter Kuniholm’s dendrochronology places the cutting of the log in 1305 BC,7 thus dating the Aegean artifacts, as well as those from other cultures, on board. When Minoan and Cycladic shipwrecks are located and excavated, their wood remains will establish a perfect chronology of Aegean archaeology without regard for Near Eastern cultures. Further, the extent to which Helene Kantor, in spite of being an Egyptologist rather than a classicist, was still a scholar of the first half of the twentieth century is revealed in the Preface to her work: “Many students have discussed Aegean connections with the East. They have usually worked from a Western standpoint, reviewing the available evidence because of its importance for Aegean chronology or as testimony to the foreign relations of the Minoans. Here, however, it has been one of our main aims to regard the Aegean from the oriental point of view, recording the impact of the vigorous and creative Western culture upon the civilizations of the Levant.”8 In the pages that follow, however, Kantor shows that, even from “the oriental point of view,” she trusted without question the Hellenocentric teachings of her time, teachings that ascribed the spread of ideas and goods from west to east solely by Minoan and Mycenaean merchants and seafarers. Not once, it seems, did the possibility of Semites sailing into the Aegean occur to Kantor. This is not to belittle her scholarship. No one in the first half of the century, although this is now denied by revisionists,9 wavered from this accepted “truth.” In discussing contacts between the Aegean and the Near East in the Late Bronze I and II Ages in the East, Kantor concluded, in part: “It is certain that the greater part of Aegean commerce with the Levant was in the hands of mainland traders, who were shipping abroad cargoes of objects which were not necessarily entirely Minoan in character. The only indication that the mainlanders did not exercise complete trade monopoly is given by the LM I vessels from

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G.F. BASS, Cape Gelidonya: A Bronze Age Shipwreck (1967); Idem, “Cape Gelidonya and Bronze Age Maritime Trade,” in H.A. HOFFNER, JR. (ed.), Orient and Occident: Essays Presented to Cyrus H. Gordon (1973) 29-38; Idem, “A Bronze Age Shipwreck at Ulu Burun (Kas): 1984 Campaign,” AJA 90 (1986) 269-96; Idem, “Bronze Age Shipwreck Reveals Splendors of the Bronze Age,” National Geographic 172.6 (December 1987) 693-733; Idem, “Evidence of Trade from Bronze Age Shipwrecks,” in Bronze Age Trade, 69-82; G.F. BASS, C. PULAK, D. COLLON, and J. WEINSTEIN, “The Bronze Age Shipwreck at Ulu Burun: 1986 Campaign,” AJA 93 (1989) 1-29; C. PULAK, “The Bronze Age Shipwreck at Ulu Burun, Turkey: 1985 Campaign,” AJA 92 (1988) 1-37; Idem, “The Uluburun Shipwreck,” in S. SWINY, R.L. HOHLFELDER, and H.W. SWINY, Res Maritimae: Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean from Prehistory to Late Antiquity. Proceedings of the Second International Symposium “Cities on the Sea,” Nicosia, Cyprus, October 18-22, 1994 (1997) 233-62; E. GALILI, N. SHMUELI, and M. ARTZY, “Bronze Age Ship’s Cargo of Copper and Tin,” International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 15 (1986) 25-37; S. WACHSMANN and K. RAVEH, “Concerning a Lead Ingot Fragment from ha-Hotrim, Israel,” International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 13 (1984) 169-76; H. PENNAS, “Point Iria Wreck,” Enalia Annual 1990, vol. 2 (1992) 39-41; CH. PENNAS, Y. VICHOS and Y. LOLOS, “The 1991 Underwater Survey of the Late Bronze Age Wreck at Point Iria,” Enalia Annual 1991, vol. 3 (1995) 4-16; Y.G. LOLOS, “Late Cypro-Mycenaean Seafaring: New Evidence From Sites in the Saronic and the Argolic Gulfs,” in V. KARAGEORGHIS and D. MICHAELIDES (eds.), Cyprus and the Sea (1995) 72-77. KANTOR, 17. C. PULAK, “Dendrochronological Dating of the Uluburun Ship,” INA Quarterly 23.1 (1996) 12-13; the date given there, 1318 BC + 2, has since been refined to 1305 BC, according to Kuniholm and Pulak after a reexamination requested by Malcolm Wiener. KANTOR, 3. E. VERMEULE, “Review of M. Bernal, Black Athena II,” The New York Review of Books (March 26, 1992) 4043.



Egypt, conspicuous in their isolation, and the Egyptian objects found in LM I-II contexts on Crete. Apparently the Minoans still had some limited contact with Egypt, but the connections with Western Asia which they had possessed in Middle Minoan times were lost to the mainlanders.”10 Anita Yannai has shown that there is no evidence at all for the presence of mainlanders, or Mycenaean merchants, on the Syro-Palestinian coast,11 something ref lected, perhaps, in the lack of even a Mycenaean word for “merchant,”12 and the “extreme paucity of references to trade or shipping activities” in the Linear B texts,13 all of which is echoed by Homer, who leaves mercantile affairs in Semitic hands. “It has long been assumed that Crete maintained close connections with Egypt until the close of the LM Ib/II period, the time which coincided with the destruction of the island’s thalassocracy and the rise of Mycenaean trade and power,”14 Kantor continues, believing instead that “the maritime hegemony which Crete exercised in the Aegean during Middle Minoan times must have been lost to the mainlanders” in the Late Helladic period.15 “By the second phase of the Late Bronze Age the mainland may have not only wrested away the Levantine trade from Crete, but also assumed the leading position which that island had formerly occupied in the Aegean world.”16 Kantor speaks of the “tremendous increase in Late Helladic trading activity” that took “place after the destruction of the Cretan capital [as] the culmination of what had been a long and steady development during the LH I-II periods.”17 “The evidence available at present leads only to the conclusion that Crete was no longer an important commercial power after the close of the Middle Minoan period,” she continues. “In place of Cretan merchants, mainlanders were voyaging to the Orient in the first and second Late Helladic periods.”18 What is the evidence for this overseas trade by Bronze Age Greek mainlanders? None whatsoever. The occurrence of Mycenaean pottery outside areas settled by Mycenaeans proves no more than that the pottery got there.19 Kantor seems not to have pondered the nature of the return goods of equal value, but it is doubtful that the Mycenaeans were sailing around giving out free samples. Kantor goes on: “Since LH I-II pottery is scattered along the coasts of Western Asia, even at Byblos, where niello working was already known at a time contemporary with the Middle Kingdom, it is more likely that mainland travellers brought back to Greece the secrets of the new technique than that it penetrated into the island of Crete”20 and was introduced from that island, “where no traces of its use have been preserved,”21 into the mainland. Was Kantor so inf luenced by her contemporaries that she could not conceive of the spread of niello working by seafarers from the vicinity of Byblos, noted since the previous millennium for their maritime skills?22 It would seem so, for she continues: “The Aegean objects carried to the East by mainland Greek merchants of this time [LH I-II] may have played an important role in the development of Syrian art....”23

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12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

KANTOR, 49. A. YANNAI, Studies on Trade Between the Levant and the Aegean in the 14th to 12th Centuries BC. Ph.D. dissertation, Linacre College, Oxford (1983). J. CHADWICK, The Mycenaean World (1976) 157. T.G. PALAIMA, “Maritime Matters in the Linear B Tablets,” in Thalassa, 309. KANTOR, 49. Ibid. 53. Ibid. 54. Ibid. 55. Ibid. 74. L.V. WATROUS, Kommos III: The Late Bronze Age Pottery (1992) 169-70 for pottery as an indicator of commerce. KANTOR, 65. Ibid. M. BIETAK, “Zur Marine des alten Reiches,” in J. BAINES, T.G.H. JAMES, A. LEAHY, and A.F. SHORE (eds.), Pyramid Studies and Other Essays Presented to I.E.S. Edwards (1988) 35-40. KANTOR, 78.


George F. BASS

Kantor titles the fourth part of her work: “Late Helladic III Commerce and its Effect upon the Art of the Near East,” with the sub-title: “Late Mycenaean Trade,” and begins it with: “The greatest expansion of Aegean trade occurred in the third phase of that area’s connections with the East, in the LH IIIa and b period....From this time on, [the mainlanders] are conspicuous in all the important emporia of the Near East. They safeguarded their trading interests by the establishment of commercial and artisan colonies at important sites, a natural procedure on the part of prominent mercantile communities. The settlements on Rhodes and Cyprus appear to have been of such magnitude as to have constituted cultural centers almost rivaling in some respects those of the Greek mainland itself.”24 I do not doubt the presence of Mycenaean settlements on Rhodes, or indeed throughout the Dodecanese and along the western coast of Asia Minor, parts of which must have been as Greek in the Late Bronze Age as in classical times, but I cannot believe that any save a few unbending souls still believe in a Mycenaean colonization of Cyprus before the twelfth century BC, during the collapse of the Bronze Age. Kantor uses the wide spread of Cypriot pottery to attest Cypriot trade: “Economically, the [LH III] period is marked, not only by Aegean, but also by Cypriot trade, attested by the wide occurrence of Cypriot pottery.”25 We now know from the Uluburun shipwreck that such pottery could have been carried, and was carried, in Cypriot pithoi on ships of any nationality,26 which proves nothing about the nationalities of the carriers. Kantor writes on: “During the Late Mycenaean period many oriental features penetrated into Greece. The East, in turn, was absorbing Western elements from the Aegean traders and craftsmen who played such prominent roles in the life of the late fourteenth and thirteenth century Levant.”27 Did she accept these Aegean traders and craftsmen on blind faith, or is there evidence of them that she does not reveal? On what basis could she write: “Imported Aegean pottery provides the means for tracing the main outlines of the connections between the Aegean and the East, but this incomplete picture can be filled in with evidence derived from the field of the decorative arts, which reveals that the Mycenaeans, in addition to their trading and colonizing activities, also introduced certain characteristic features of Mycenaean civilization into the fabric of Asiatic culture...”?28 In summation: “Contrary to the view that has generally prevailed, it now appears that even as early as the LH I-II period, mainland seafarers carried Aegean products to Egypt and were at the same time beginning to develop their trade with Asia.”29 And “the cultural effects produced by connections with the Greek mainland were commensurate with the volume of the trade transacted by Greek merchants in the LH III period.”30 I was asked to give a paper on how evidence from shipwreck excavations during the past half century might have affected the tenets presented by Helene Kantor in The Aegean and the Orient in the Second Millennium B.C. It is clear, however, that it was not Bronze Age shipwrecks that disprove the notion of the western maritime monopoly that Kantor so uncritically accepted. Contrary evidence was there all along, largely in her beloved Egypt, in the 18thDynasty tomb-paintings that show fifteenth- and fourteenth-century merchant ships from Syria, manned by Syrians,31 or at least with Syrian merchants,32 but which show no ships from the Aegean. Contrary evidence was there in the overwhelming number of Egyptian paintings and reliefs33 that show copper and tin and glass and ivory and Canaanite jars of resin for incense

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Ibid. 79. Ibid. 82. BASS 1986 (supra n. 5) 279-81; C. PULAK, “1994 Excavation at Uluburun: The Final Campaign,” INA Quarterly 21.4 (1994) 8-9. KANTOR, 84-85. Ibid. 102. Ibid. Ibid. 103. N. de G. DAVIES and R.O. FAULKNER, “A Syrian Trading Venture to Egypt,” JEA 33 (1947) 40-46. T. SÄVE-SÖDERBERGH, Four 18th Dynasty Tombs (1957) 25-27, with pl. XXIII. G.F. BASS, “Prolegomena to a Study of Maritime Traffic in Raw Materials to the Aegean During the Fourteenth and Thirteenth Centuries B.C.,” in Techne, 153-70.



brought to Egypt by Syrians, sometimes simply labeled as such, and ivory and ebony logs brought by Nubians, whereas the depiction of Aegeans is limited to six tombs, and those depict only Minoans, and only in “the reigns of Hatshepsut, Thutmose III and the very opening years of Amenhotep II’s reign.”34 Not once do we see Mycenaeans. Negative evidence was there all along in the Amarna letters, which record trade, if we may call it that, between Egypt and the Hittites, the Babylonians, and various Near Eastern princes, including, perhaps, the king of Cyprus, if Alashiya was Cyprus, but not with kings from the Aegean, or their representatives.35 Contrary evidence was there in the Syro-Palestinian origins of most Cypriot bronze types of the Late Bronze Age.36 The evidence was even there in Homer, whose seafaring merchants and smiths are Semites, a fact dismissed by classicists as ref lecting only the later Iron Age.37 Nevertheless, Helene Kantor was ahead of her time by recognizing the now invisible trade in raw materials that prevented some archaeologists from ever guessing at the role these materials played in overseas trade. In speaking of the MM II Kamares pottery found in Syria and Egypt, she states perspicaciously that “the full extent of their commerce will probably never be known [because] part of the cargoes carried apparently consisted of highly perishable commodities.”38 But still she is talking of Aegean traders only, explaining that “in using the words ‘Aegean trade’ we refer to the commerce carried on by Aegeans with the outside world...,”39 even when the cargoes “could have consisted of raw materials....”40 Although it seems that some Near Eastern ships sailed from Syria to Egypt via Crete,41 and could have picked up cargos en route, Kantor could conceive only that a possibly Minoan silver cup found with Near Eastern cylinder seals in the Treasure of Tod, “was apparently not brought directly from Crete to Egypt, but reached that country through Syria,”42 and never doubted that decorative motifs transported on Minoan textiles were carried in other than Minoan ships.43 All such goods could, of course, have been picked up at a Minoan port like Kommos44 by a Near Eastern ship like those that sank at Uluburun and Cape Gelidonya, and from there carried on to Egypt. Recent discoveries at Tell el-Dabca may provide evidence of the actual presence of Minoans in Egypt,45 and I do not doubt that Minoan merchants played a role in maritime commerce, so I emphasize that I speak only of the lack of evidence for Mycenaean seafaring merchants. Since I wrote my doctoral dissertation in 1964, I have consistently said that there was some sort of joint Minoan-Semitic role in “copper production and trade, which is too vague to be properly understood...until the ingot-bearing ship of that date is located and excavated in the Bay of Antalya.”46 This summer Cemal Pulak will try once more to locate the wreck of that ship, probably from the sixteenth or fifteenth century BC, that was partly salvaged by Greek sponge divers from Kalymnos in the first decade of this century. The copper ingots raised then, and still used as scrap on Kalymnos until the early 1960s, were seemingly of the pillow-shaped type that is the only type shown as tribute from both Keftiu and Retenu in Egyptian art, perhaps ref lecting the trade arrangement “between the Minoans and a part of the world using a West Semitic language” suggested by Philip Betancourt at this conference.47

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S. WACHSMANN, Aegeans in the Theban Tombs (1987) 103. W.L. MORAN, The Amarna Letters (1992). BASS 1967 (supra n. 5) 84-121. BASS (supra n. 4). KANTOR, 19. Ibid. 18 with n. 10. Ibid. 32. H.L. LORIMER, Homer and the Monuments (1950) 79. KANTOR, 20. Ibid. 20. WATROUS (supra n. 19) 182. M. BIETAK, Avaris: The Capital of the Hyksos (1996). BASS 1967 (supra n. 5) 166. P.P. BETANCOURT, “Middle Minoan Objects in the Near East,” in this volume.


George F. BASS

The ship wrecked at Cape Gelidonya, Turkey, around 1200 BC, but probably toward the end of the thirteenth century, seems to have hailed from the Syro-Palestinian coast or Cyprus, a thirty-year-old hypothesis recently strengthened by the discovery of the ship’s Near Eastern/Cypriot anchor.48 I am fully aware of the mixed nature of ships’ crews, registration, and cargos. At the time this paper was being written, for example, Newsweek Magazine described a contemporary shipwreck: “The Sea Empress was owned by a Norwegian, registered in Cyprus, managed from Scotland, chartered by the French, crewed by Russians, f lew a Liberian f lag and carried an American cargo.”49 Nevertheless, the personal possessions on the ship that sank at Cape Gelidonya were overwhelmingly Near Eastern, including the sixty pan-balance weights, the ship’s lamp, the scarabs, the stone mortars, and the only merchant’s cylinder seal. The cargo of ingots and scrap bronze tools came also from east of the Aegean, from Cyprus. The wreck’s excavation provided firsthand evidence for the shipment of large quantities of raw materials that leave few traces on land, and was the catalyst for a study of the origins of raw materials as recorded in Egyptian art and contemporary writings. By the end of that research, I wondered why Hans-Günter Buchholz, in his most thorough study of the so-called “ox-hide” ingots,50 had called them Keftiubarren rather than Retenubarren. The excavation of the ship wrecked at Uluburun, Turkey, in or shortly after 1305 BC, provides additional evidence for such shipments with its cargo of ingots of copper and tin and glass, logs of ebony, murex opercula, terebinth resin, hippopotamus and elephant ivory, ostrich eggshells, and spices. Almost all of this cargo probably originated on the Syro-Palestinian coast.51 Most of these goods, save the ebony, are labeled as coming from Retenu, or Syria, when shown in Egyptian art, and the Amarna letters describe the shipment of most to Egypt from various Near Eastern centers. We, the excavators, believe the ship probably had one or more Mycenaeans on board, perhaps merchants.52 There were Mycenaean eating wares, two Mycenaean swords, a Mycenaean pin of northern origin, Mycenaean glass relief beads, and two Mycenaean merchants’ seals. Nevertheless, there is much more evidence of the presence of Near Easterners. Two, or more probably three, boxwood writing tablets, or diptychs,53 were most likely from the Near East.54 Musical instruments were of types not normally found in the Aegean — a pair of finger cymbals,55 a probable lute or two,56 and a shofar-like trumpet carved from a hippopotamus tooth57 — and were thus more probably played on board during religious rites. Most of the cylinder seals are of Near Eastern origin, although the sheer number could suggest that they were part of the cargo, like the seals sent from the Near East to the pharaoh as gifts, or those

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C. PULAK and E. ROGERS, “The 1993-1994 Turkish Shipwreck Surveys,” INA Quarterly 21.4 (1994) 20-21. Newsweek, European edition (March 4, 1997) 25, brought to my attention by Claire Peachey. H.-G. BUCHHOLZ, “Keftiubarren und Erzhandel in zweiten vorchristlichen Jahrtausend,” Prähistorische Zeitschrift 37 (1959) 1 ff. BASS (supra n. 33). PULAK, Res maritimae (supra n. 5). BASS, PULAK, COLLON and WEINSTEIN (supra n. 5) 10-11; G.F. BASS, “A Bronze-Age Writing-Diptych from the Sea off Lycia,” Kadmos 29 (1990) 169; R. PAYTON, “The Ulu Burun Writing-Board Set,” AnatSt 41 (1991) 99-106; C. PULAK, “The Late Bronze Age Shipwreck at Ulu Burun, 1991 Field Season: ‘Ingot Summer’,” INA Newsletter 18.4 (1991) 5; Idem, “The Shipwreck at Ulu Burun, Turkey: The 1992 Excavation Campaign,” INA Quarterly 19.4 (1992) 7; Idem 1994 (supra n. 26) 11. D. SYMINGTON, “Late Bronze Age Writing-Boards and their Uses: Textual Evidence from Anatolia and Syria,” AnatSt 41 (1991) 111-23. BASS 1986 (supra n. 5) 288-90 for the discovery of the first cymbal in the pair. The only Aegean exception known to me is from the LM tomb at Moulianà on Crete, illustrated in A.J. EVANS, The Palace of Minos at Knossos III (1930) 472. PULAK 1991 (supra n. 53) 8; Idem 1994 (supra n. 26) 10. See C. RENFREW and J.F. CHERRY, “The Finds,” in C. RENFREW, The Archaeology of Cult: The Sanctuary at Phylakopi (1985) 325-26 for the earliest evidence of a Greek soundbox made from a tortoise carapace. PULAK 1992 (supra n. 53) 7-8.



found at Boeotian Thebes, which were also almost certainly royal gifts.58 The largest known collection of gold and silver Canaanite jewelry was at least partly scrap, like the gold scarab of Nefertiti, but some may well have been worn, reminding us of the gold roundels shown at the necks of Syrian seamen and merchants in Egyptian art. I could continue by discussing tools and weapons, but more relevant is what may have been the ship’s protective deity,59 although she may also have been part of the cargo, matching the gifts of gold-clad statuettes of females described in the Amarna letters.60 Most importantly, however, the ship’s twenty-four stone anchors61 are of types known plentifully on land and under water in the Levant, but virtually absent in the Aegean, with an exception at the entrepôt of Kommos. Both the Cape Gelidonya and Uluburun ships were built in the shell-first method, with planks held together by mortise-and-tenon joints,62 as in later Greek and Roman hulls, and both carried stone anchors of the kind common in the Levant, but absent from the Aegean. That at Uluburun also had a wickerwork fence to keep out the waves.63 In conclusion, Late Bronze Age wrecks have provided much new information about the histories of metallurgy, glass, writing, music, metrology, literacy, ship construction, and so on, but have not changed the picture of Late Bronze Age maritime trade from the picture that any reasonable person could have drawn by looking at already existing evidence. There is nothing to suggest that the Middle or Late Helladic I-II people had any role at all in maritime commerce. When literate Semitic merchants sailed to Greece, after seeing the architectural splendors of Egypt, and perhaps having dealt with Hittites, they must have found thatch-roofed Mycenaean megara, with their mud-brick walls (if megara even existed so early), as exotic as Gauguin found the palaces of Tahitian kings, or eighteenth-century sailors at the time of the Bounty found Tahiti when making royal gift exchanges of, say, mirrors for breadfruit. This is not to deny the skill of Mycenaean I-II craftsmen and women, who made pottery every bit as good as that being fired by Native Americans in the southwest of North America when it was first visited by European explorers, or later Mycenaean masons, who would erect walls of giant stones as imposing as those admired on Easter Island by seventeenth-century Dutch explorers of Polynesia. The Polynesians, however, were probably superior seafarers. Only modern “political, cultural and social inf luences,” mentioned above, could lead to any other conclusion. Of later, classical times, D.W.J. Gill recently wrote: “It is noteworthy that the Phoenicians are re-emerging in modern scholarship as the carriers of Greek pottery,”64 adding that “the appearance of non-Greeks in the literary sources as the carriers of pottery should encourage us to rethink the view that the spread of Greek artefacts indeed represents the spread of the Greeks overseas.”65 The same holds true for the Bronze Age. George F. BASS

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D. COLLON, “II. Cylinder Seals from Ulu Burun,” AJA 93 (1989) 12-16, with n. 76, for the first seals found on the wreck. Others appear in C. PULAK, “1989 Excavation Campaign at Uluburun,” INA Quarterly 16.4 (1989) 5 fig. 2; Idem 1992 (supra n. 53) 10. National Geographic (May 1993) n.p.; PULAK 1992 (supra n. 53) 10; D. HALDANE, “At the Crossroads of History,” INA Quarterly 20.3 (1993) 7. MORAN (supra n. 35) EA 14 on p. 29. See, for example, C. PULAK, “1990 Excavation Campaign at Uluburun,” INA Quarterly 17.4 (1990) 13 fig. 9; Idem 1991 (supra n. 53) 1, 4, 9; Idem 1992 (supra n. 53) 8-9. G.F. BASS, “The Construction of a Seagoing Vessel of the Late Bronze Age,” Tropis I: Proceedings of the First International Symposium on Ship Construction, Piraeus 1985 (1989) 25-35. PULAK 1992 (supra n. 53) 11, 21. D.W.J. GILL, “Positivism, Pots and Long-Distance Trade,” in I. MORRIS (ed.), Classical Greece: Ancient Histories and Modern Archaeologists (1994) 105. GILL (supra n. 64) 107.


George F. BASS

Discussion following G.F. Bass’ paper: [Eds.: The following discussion, which has been edited and emended from the original in order to avoid possible confusion, led to a re-examination of the log in question and to a new suggested date of 1305 BC for the Uluburun wreck. Readers will note that the date has been emended in the paper above.] M.H. Wiener (Chair): Thank you very much. You almost have me wondering why, in the Near East, the god of crafts is said to come from Crete. I wonder if, while others are thinking, perhaps I might make just one comment about the log. Since there is no outside bark preserved, there is always the possibility that some rings have been worn away. Professor Vassos Karageorghis has always maintained that the Cypriot pottery carried on board the ship belongs mostly if not entirely in the thirteenth century BC. [Chair’s Addendum: A reanalysis of this timber, carried out after the completion of the controlled three-year drying processes by the Laboratory for Aegean and Near East Dendrochronology at Cornell University, has revealed an additional 10 rings, ending in a ring of which eleven hundredths of a millimeter is preserved, formed in the year 1305 BC. There is no way of knowing how close this microscopically visible trace of a ring was to the exterior of the tree. Since there is no indication that the timber was trimmed by human agency, any missing rings would have been worn away by the action of sand and sea over the course of three millennia. In summary, on present evidence the Uluburun ship sank around 1300 BC, and no earlier than 1305 BC.] Second, I would note that the dendrochronological dating is not entirely independent of historical Near Eastern chronologies, since in Anatolia there is no continuous sequence as there is in California, Ireland, and Germany, with trees that over 3,300 years old. We have from Anatolia a f loating chronology, which is then anchored partly on historical grounds. The 1,500-year f loating sequence presently ends with logs from Tumulus B at Gordion, whose construction is dated to around 630 BC on historical grounds versus a final year dendrochronological date of 627 BC. A second reference point comes from logs from a temple built by Rusa II at Ayanis in Urartu with an inscription detailing the events of his reign. We know the temple was built not long before the death of Rusa II around 645 BC, while the logs, many of which have their outer bark preserved, give a final year of 651 BC. Finally, there is the fact that on logs from the f loating chronology we have indications of two events 469 years apart. Now, we also have two events 469 years apart in the oaks of Ireland and Germany, and there, where the trees are continuous and we can count one ring = one year, we know that the events occur in 1628 BC and 1159 BC. We know for the historical reasons I’ve described that the f loating chronology is correct to within about a decade. Think how extraordinary it would be if everywhere else in the world these two great, presumably volcanic, events occurred in 1628 BC and 1159 BC, but in Anatolia the logs were to record events in (for example) 1618 BC and 1149 BC instead. That is highly unlikely, and so it seems that the formerly f loating chronology is now fixed, based on a combination of dendrochronological and historical information. E. Herscher: Can you tell us what you think now about the direction of the trade routes? Are they counter-clockwise or east-west or ... ? G.F. Bass: I think that there is no doubt at all that the ship was sailing from east to west, but whether it was going to Crete or straight down to Egypt, we don’t know. And, of course, we know from Homer that when a perfectly normal ship was sailing — not blown off course, but simply sailing — to Egypt, he could say “when Crete is behind us,” suggesting this counterclockwise movement, which would work all right with the prevailing winds and the currents. V. Karageorghis: In 1983, you wrote a letter to me, saying that there was so much copper on the ship, ten tons, that it was inconceivable for an individual merchant to have assembled so much copper. You suggested that only a king could send so much copper abroad, and you suggested the king of Alashiya. Do you still think that this ship may have been on a commercial mission on behalf of the king of Alashiya? G.F. Bass: It’s possible. (Laughter). The question of Alashiya is a very difficult one and I can argue it either way now, very persuasively, to myself. That is the nice thing about archaeology; if we had all the answers we wouldn’t be doing what we do.



M.J. Mellink: What makes you say that the Nefertiti scarab was scrap at this time? Couldn’t it have had some intrinsic value or interest? G.F. Bass: We think the Nefertiti scarab is scrap only for two reasons. It was found close to pieces that we know were scrap, pieces that were cut up and crumpled, and simply thrown into the ship. We’re going to study the plans again and again and again; this study is still underway, of how close it was to what we know was scrap. However, after the downfall of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, we know that the conservative priests were trying to erase all memory of their names, and presumably no Egyptian would want to be caught with a scarab with her name, and so, it might have been sold to a passing person just for its gold value. When we first found it, we thought, ‘Oh, this is a ship of Nefertiti, it’s her royal envoy, it’s a sign that she has sent someone on a mission,’ but I think now the date suggests that it is after Nefertiti, and it was found close to the other scrap. M.J. Mellink: It’s in mint condition, isn’t it? G.F. Bass: Opinions vary. Jim Weinstein says that it is quite worn; he used that in his argument that it was already old. How worn, I don’t know — gold is a very soft material. M.J. Mellink: It was not purposely damaged, you don’t think? G.F. Bass: It was not damaged purposely, no.

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