Discovering sunken treasure

It feels a bit like discovering sunken treasure, finding the Museum of Underwater Archaeology in Bodrum, Turkey. A great collection from the ancient world!

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


The Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology

Who doesn’t love the idea of discovering sunken treasure?

I’m sure I remember it being a dream of mine as a young boy. Sailing off a ship (pirate or otherwise), following a map to find the spot where x marks, and then opening up those chests full of gold.

“Ah ha me maties, we’ll share this bullion and have a few rums to celebrate.”

Or something like that. I’m not sure about the rum part of things – I was just a kid, after all.

Well, finally my dream came true in Turkey when I found the spot, I found x, I found sunken treasure.

True, archaeologists and professional divers had already retrieved everything from the water and put it all in one location, but it was still worthy of some celebrational rum later that evening.

Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology, Turkey

The treasure trove is called the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology. It’s not any old museum, though.

For one thing, it’s inside the Bodrum Castle on the side of the harbour. The enormous structure dominates the horizon from any viewpoint along the water’s edge and is the focus of all navigation in the area.

The fact that the building complex itself could be a museum means it’s a bonus to have such a good exhibition inside it as well.

Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology, Turkey

Inside the protective walls of the castle are the findings from more than ten shipwrecks along the Turkish coast.

With great care and delicacy, teams of experts have retrieved the items that have been left on the seabed or nestled in any remains of the original vessel. They have found jars, coins, weapons, jewellery, glass bowls, and more.

Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology, Turkey

These are old ships we’re talking about. The most recent vessel is about 400 years old and the oldest is from the sixteenth century BC – more than 3,500 years ago.

This is the stuff a treasure-hunter’s dreams are made of!

The Uluburun shipwreck, Turkey

One of the most impressive finds that’s housed in the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology is the wreck of a ship from the fourteenth century BC that was found near Uluburun in south-western Turkey.

The guess is that it set sail from a port in what is now Cyprus, Syria or Palestine.

Where it was heading, nobody knows for sure. But it had a lot of valuable goods on board, so presumably it was either going to be a gift for an important person, or was heading to a market – perhaps Rhodes.

Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology, Turkey

On board it had copper ingots, a jar full of glass beads, jars of olives, elephant tusks, hippopotamus teeth, ostrich eggshells, a trumpet, gold and silver jewellery, daggers, maces, swords and (my favourite) a gold scarab inscribed with the name ‘Nefertiti’.

Clearly this was no ordinary boat with ordinary cargo. Something royal was involved somewhere and it would have been a big loss for this vessel to sink.

Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology, Turkey

But, their loss (whoever ‘they’ were) is our gain because some of things found on board had never been seen by modern eyes before – just read about in ancient texts and on Egyptian tomb paintings.

Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology, Turkey

Imagine being the first person in more than three thousand years to see these things!

Well, that honour actually went to a local Turkish sponge diver who first spotted the copper ingots on the bottom of the ocean. His name was Mehmet Cakir and the year was 1982.

He sketched what he had seen, describing the bits of copper as “metal biscuits with ears” and, when the nautical archaeologists saw his drawings, an inspection team was sent out to start work.

Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology, Turkey

So, you see, it is still possible to discover sunken treasure. If Mehmet Cakir can do it, so could any of us.

Who knows how many more ancient shipwrecks are out there under the crashing waves around Turkey’s reefs? There’s still time to live a childhood dream.

16 thoughts on “Discovering sunken treasure”

  1. Ahoy there me heartie. Tis Captain Lozbeard, of the good ship Pierat. Oo, that sounds mysteriously French. If only my keyboard had one of those e’s with an accent. Anyway. I too would like to echo the previous commenters adulation of your new header. Vera was somewhat excited about it too. If only I had a mind like yours. Also, pirates. Pirates are very cool. As long as they are in olden times. These new modern pirates with Ak47’s and fast speedboats are less funky. I lose myself…

    • Ha ha… oh dear me. I am waiting for the day that Hollywood make a pirate movie based in Somalia. Do you think Johnny Depp would be up for that?
      And thanks for the thoughts on the header. It uses a very funky web technique I like to call ‘manually uploading a new one everytime I change country’ 🙂

  2. That’s fantastic, such a fascinating museum, I love the explanations about where the ship sailed from and where was going to, I always get so excited when we try to give a reason to all ancient findings! 😀

    • Yeah, I know what you mean. It would be easy just to look at a bunch of jewels and go ‘wow’. But when you know they came from a boat thousands of years ago that was probably heading from here to there, etc, it takes on a whole new meaning!

    • I guess if you’re going for a bit of a party/resort holiday then it would be easy to overlook. But for anyone who even makes half an attempt to find something to do in Bodrum, it has to be an obvious choice.

    • I hope he grabbed a few things for himself before he showed them where it was. I don’t agree with stealing artifacts but it would be nice to have a souvenir if you’re the guy who discovers it!!

  3. Hello, I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this info was spectacular. I am wanting to learn about renting a private vacation home in Fethiye, so this post is just what I needed! Thanks.

  4. well actually i grow up in bodrum so it is not a discovery for me 🙂 and a cousin of my father actually worked as diver for the treasure. so i am glad someone noticed such beauty because in Turkey people dose not understand the real values of things like that…


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