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Ship Timber as Symbol? Dendro-provenancing & Contextualizing Ancient Cedar Ship Remains in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Book - Dissertation
This research follows a distinct path to the determination and contextualization of ship timber provenance, namely the path of a piece of cedar wood from the forest to the ship, to the archaeological record, and its provenance back to the original forest. It is often assumed that cedar wood originated in the Lebanon, but these results demonstrate that 1) cedar (Cedrus sp.) forests in Cyprus and Syria were also accessed for shipbuilding, and 2) in two of the three ships examined here, selection of wood from certain forests had religious implications, suggesting that cedar ship timbers may have symbolized certain deities or sacred concepts. Strontium isotopic analyses (86Sr/87Sr) complement historical data to determine the source origins for archaeological cedar wood samples from Egyptian Pharaoh Senwosret III's buried Carnegie boat, hull wood from the famous Uluburun shipwreck (Turkey), and the ramming timber of the Athlit Ram from a wrecked trireme (Israel). Non-nautical wood has also been examined, including timbers from the ziggurat of Nabonidus in Ur (Iraq), beams from Al-Aqsa Mosque (Israel), and a Saite period sarcophagus from the Nicholson Museum in Sydney (Australia), and these are included in an appendix. Provenances were determined by creating a data set of strontium isotopic ratios for living cedar forests in the Eastern Mediterranean, then matching the measured values of archaeological wood (unknowns) to those from the modern forests (knowns). In addition to determining provenance using geochemical methods, conclusions are also reliant upon the numerous historical records relating to cedar use in antiquity that serve to elucidate the numerical values and to contextualize them according to time period and culture. The findings presented here are extremely important to the future of archaeological science, and they are also relevant for redefining the ancient timber trade and shipbuilding processes. The results have demonstrated that strontium isotopes can be used to provenance archaeological cedar wood, which was used liberally in elite constructions throughout the Eastern Mediterranean and Near East. One of the other most intriguing discoveries presented here is that the provenance of ancient ship wood during the Bronze Age is directly related to how the ancients perceived cedar forests and ships made from them as sacred. Other studies have discussed the role of religion in ancient seafaring, but this is the first to explore the role of religion in shipbuilding. By contextualizing the numerical values within the realms of history, mythology and ritual, this dissertation also attempts to confront the disparity between studies of science and those of religion.
Number of pages: 232