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x0x Amphoras caught in fishing nets

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  • Turkish Radio Hour
    x0x Amphoras caught in fishing nets By Abdullah Kilic At one time we used to smash the amphoras which caught in our nets and throw the pieces back into the
    Message 1 of 1 , May 5, 2004
      x0x Amphoras caught in fishing nets

      By Abdullah Kilic

      'At one time we used to smash the amphoras which caught in our nets
      and throw the pieces back into the sea so that they would not catch
      and tear them again. But times have changed, and our attitudes with
      them of course. We never guessed the time would come when we would go
      to sea in pursuit of amphoras instead of fish.' So an elderly
      fisherman, Ibrahim Serbest, told me when I visited Ta$ucu. They say
      that a fisherm'ss tales are never exhausted, and how true that is.

      They follow one another without a pause, anecdotes not only about the
      sea, wind and fish, but also amphoras. Listening to stories about
      these ancient jars lying on the seabed in the warm but deep waters of
      the Mediterranean made me look with new eyes at the glistening sea
      stretching to the horizon.

      The amphora museum in Ta$ucu on Turkey's Mediterranean coast owes its
      existence to the endeavours of fisherman like Ibrahim Serbest. Over
      300 amphoras can be seen today in the museum, which is housed in a
      tall stone building, a former warehouse built in the 19th century,
      facing Tasucu Harbour. The amphoras are like time capsules, revealing
      all kinds of information about the food, transportation and trade of
      the past.

      The ancient Greek word amphora is a compound of amphi meaning
      two-sided and phorus meaning portable, that is, 'something that can be
      grasped by both sides and carried'. Amphoras are pottery jars tapering
      towards the base, and with two handles on either side of the neck.

      They were fashioned from clay containing various other materials such
      as mica and sand, and fired at a temperature of 800-1000 degrees

      In antiquity they played an indispensable role in sea trade, used for
      carrying wine, olive oil, honey, dried fish, fruit, barley, spices and

      The town of Silifke and the port of Ta$ucu were flourishing trading
      centres in antiquity, and large numbers of ships constantly sailed in
      and out of the harbour. Goods shipped into Ta$ucu were carried inland
      via the Goksu river valley or eastwards along the coast, while ships
      loaded up with export commodities from the region destined for ports
      throughout the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean. Amphoras filled
      with local wine and olive oil, for instance, were carried to Tasucu,
      where they were shipped to Cyprus, Egypt, the Aegean islands and
      mainland Greece

      The extent of this trade is reflected in the diversity of the amphoras
      found in the offshore waters, where they have lain since the ships
      carrying them sunk in storms or gales thousands of years ago.

      When local fishermen discover amphoras, they now bring them to the
      museum founded by the Tasucu Educational and Environmental
      Conservation Foundation. Here they can be enjoyed by visitors, and are
      prevented from falling into the hands of antiquities smugglers. The
      oldest of the amphoras in the museum dates from the 6th century BC,
      and the newest from around the 12th century AD. The majority belong to
      the Roman and Byzantine periods, and almost all come from wrecks in
      the coastal waters between the city of Mersin to the east and Antalya
      to the west. The museum curators say that hardly a day passes without
      a fisherman passing by to tell them that an amphora caught in his net
      was too heavy for him to lift onto his boat, or to inform them of the
      location of a wreck filled with amphoras.

      Not all the amphoras reach the museum in one piece, but even those
      that are broken have a story to tell. The various shapes are the main
      clues to their place of origin, and they are grouped together by type:
      broad and narrow, large and small, oval and pointed. While most are
      light brown in colour, others are reddish in hue. The range is
      enormous, and include examples of amphoras made in Egypt, Mitylene,
      Rhodes, Mende, Tasoz, Chios and Cos. Since they have lain on the
      seabed for so long, many are encrusted with deposits. Although
      amphoras form the majority of the exhibits, other finds are also
      exhibited in Tasucu Amphora Museum. These include rings, bracelets,
      small figurines, glass jars, and two tiny tear bottles made of
      coloured glass.

      According to Ibrahim Serbest there are still huge numbers of amphoras
      in the sea around Ta$ucu, but recovering them is not always easy.

      Amphoras are sought after for decoration and by collectors, but by
      bringing them to the museum Ta$ucu's fishermen ensure that their finds
      make a contribution to our knowledge of not only local history, but
      that of the entire region.

      * Abdullah Kilic is a journalist
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