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Black Sea ‘archaeopark’ for divers on the way

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The spectacular Kerpe (Ucandairebaskani)
The spectacular Kerpe (Ucandairebaskani)
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The Kerpe Underwater Archaeopark Project, Türkiye’s first attempt to create a submerged “museum” for divers complete with artefacts dating back 2,400 years, is reported to be set for completion this year. 

The Kocaeli Museum Directorate has been carrying out what it says have been the first scientific underwater excavations and research at Kerpe in the Black Sea over the past four years. 

Overseen by the country’s Ministry of Culture & Tourism, its divers have been uncovering historical artefacts dating from between the 4th century BC and the 12th century AD. 

Kerpe, originally called Kalpe (which means pot or jar), lies on the southern Black Sea coast in Türkiye’s Kocaeli province and was a trading post in Roman, Byzantine and Genoese times. Timber and coal for Istanbul would also have passed through the port during the Ottoman period.

Divers working at the site destined to become an archaeopark 
(Kocaeli Museum Directorate)
Divers working at the site (Kocaeli Museum Directorate)

The archaeological work has concentrated on the submerged remains of the harbour breakwater about 80m offshore, where items including numerous amphora fragments lie scattered over a 2,000sq m area.

Many of the discoveries are being preserved in place at the 4m-deep site for scuba divers and snorkellers to enjoy once the pilot project gets underway, the museum stating that it has been inspired by similar ventures in Italy, Israel and southern Cyprus.

Other artefacts have already been recovered for display in the museum’s “The Silent Harbour of the Black Sea: Kalpe” exhibition.

Kocaeli Museum in Izmit
Kocaeli Museum in Izmit

Museum director Serkan Gedük says he believes that the project will prove “extremely valuable in terms of emphasising the commercial relations between East and West from Antiquity to the Ottoman period in the Black Sea. We are trying to exhibit the cultural assets unearthed during the underwater excavations chronologically and with some animations in our museum. 

“During the excavation works, we have identified much underwater cultural heritage, ranging from commercial amphora remains dating from the 4th century BC to the 12th century AD to red-glazed ceramics, lamps, pipe fragments, various cultural assets belonging to the Ottoman period and shipwreck remains that we have detected in the region,” says Gedük.

Also read: Long-lost port discovered by snorkeller

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