New study tells tale of shipwreck found in northern Iran

November 25, 2020 - 18:39

TEHRAN – A fresh scientific study has shed a new light on the fate of a centuries-old shipwreck, which was found in 2005 in northern Iran.

A team of researchers from the Iranian National Institute for Oceanography and Atmospheric Science (INIOAS) and the Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and Tourism (RICHT), in collaboration with researchers from France and Malta, has recently published the results of their research on the Qoroq historical shipwreck in a prestigious international journal. The research was supported by the Ports and Maritime Organization of Iran.

The Qoroq historical shipwreck is located 5 km east of Talesh in Gilan province, near the Qoroq village at the southwest corner of the Caspian Sea. The wreckage was reported by locals in 2005.

In the following years, non-scientific attempts were conducted to displace the wreckage for public exhibition, without any tangible results. Currently, this historic ship is being destroyed due to natural processes such as wave action as well as by the reckless visitors.

To preserve this maritime cultural heritage, the General Directorate of Ports and Maritime of Gilan Province in collaboration with the INIOAS, the RICHT have conducted this project to shed light on the identity of the wreckage and reviewing the methods for its conservation.

Dr. Majid Naderi from INIOAS mentioned that the historical shipwreck is an eighteenth-century vessel, according to radiocarbon dating on a piece of wood belonging to the ship’s hull.

This ship was probably built in the late Safavid dynasty or the Afsharid period ruling on Iran. The results of the xylological study show that Scot Pine is the wood type that is used in the construction of this vessel.

Caucasus Mountains was considered as a timber supply area. He concluded that based on the construction age and historical documents, the shipyard was most probably in Russian territory such as Astrakhan rather than Iran.

Dr. Hossein Tofighian from RICHT who led the archeological excavations pointed that the shipwreck was broken down to half along its longitudinal axis. However, different parts of the vessel are identifiable, including 42 transverse beams, 8 and 10 longitudinal beams, stem installation site, nose, cover boards, and metal joints such as long iron spikes. The results of geophysical studies showed that the missing half of the ship is covered by coastal sediments.

The research team outlined several possible scenarios for the grounding of the ship on Qoroq coast; due to a large hole in the northern hull of the vessel, complete damage of the southern half of the ship and according to some historical accounts, possibly the ship was hit by artillery shells during the Iran-Russia wars in the early nineteenth century.

Another possible scenario for the ship’s abandonment could be related to the 1904 law which stated that in Russia wooden ships were to be replaced by steamships. However, the most probable scenario is that the ship sunk due to sea storms.

According to historical reports, coastal sailing routes were preferred by the sailors until the end of the 19th century. Therefore, the ship may have been caught in a storm and stranded on the shore. In addition to sea storms, one of the main reasons for the sinking of vessels off the coast could be attributed to rapid Caspian Sea level falls during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Since the mid 19th century, the sea experienced a sharp decline in its level. As a result, sailors may have erred in their estimates of the depths of the sea, especially on the flat coastal areas of the Talesh region.

Conservation and restoration studies of the research show that the Qoroq wreckage has decayed and packed in some parts due to microbial and fungal activity as well as changes in the pH of the environment. The researchers realized that this vessel is being degraded under the waves and hydrodynamic action and it is necessary to take protective and restoration measures.

AFM/

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