The ruins of the world’s largest and oldest ancient shipyard were found in the north of the island of Dana, located along the coastline of the Silifke district of Mersin province in the Mediterranean region of Türkiye.
Dana Island is a small island in Turkey’s Rough Cilicia region, which is located near Silifke of Mersin. Because of the cedar trees in the Taurus mountains and iron ore deposits in the Gazipaşa and Anamur regions, the island’s region has been subject to international politics and trade since the Bronze Age.
To date, many 276 slipways from different periods have been discovered in situ on the island. With the new finds, the number of sleds reached 294.
Associate Professor Hakan Öniz, the head of the Department of Cultural Heritage Preservation and Restoration at Akdeniz University (AU) Faculty of Fine Arts, said, “We have proven that it is the oldest, untouched, and preserved shipyard in the world,”.
In 2015, with permission from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Associate Professor Dr. Öniz mentioned that they conducted a study and found the world’s largest and oldest ancient shipyard at the north of the island.
Dr. Öniz stated, “Every year, we conduct documentation and examination studies on Dana Island. With the new findings, the number of slipways reached 294. This means nearly 300 ships could have been simultaneously built, and these were warships. We can consider that they were reconstructed within the same year and contributed to the naval power in the Mediterranean. The simultaneous construction of 300 ships is so significant that it could alter the political, military, and commercial balances in the Mediterranean.”
Associate Professor Dr. Öniz highlighted that ships built on Dana Island were involved in various wars, including naval battles between the Sea Peoples migration during the Bronze Age and conflicts between Greeks and Persians.
He stated, “The entire world is aware of the existence of a shipyard set up side by side on Dana Island in Mersin and the capability to build nearly 300 ships. These slipways also served as a place for the annual maintenance of wooden ships. We have proven that it is the world’s oldest, untouched, and preserved shipyard.”
Dana Island’s slipways are mostly rock-cut and are classified based on their visible physical characteristics. The majority of the slipways were built side by side. The front parts of some slipways eroded away, but the back parts towards the mainland remained intact. There are also some unstudied rock-cut constructions behind large slipways that are likely special places for their service boats. Some slipways had also collapsed into the sea as a result of earthquakes.
The studies and underwater archaeological activities also performed in and around Dana island in recent years. Arkeo Scientific Research Ship was used during the underwater research project.
The Island’s slipway entrances were scanned by SCUBA diving devices including normal sea scooters. Deepwater sites around the island, which are far from the coastline have been researched by sonars and ROVs. Surveys on Dana island and its shores will continue in following years.
Cover Photo: DHA