Teodor Rokov from the Archaeology Museum in Bulgaria’s Black Sea city of Varna is an archaeologist specializing in the study of maritime history and experimental sailing with Prehistory style vessels. Photo: archaeologist Teodor Rokov via Darik Varna
Teodor Rokov, an archeologist from the Varna Museum of Archaeology, will represent Bulgaria in the ABORA IV expedition exploring the prehistoric contacts of the civilizations in the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean through an experimental voyage with a reed boat built by Uru people, Native Americans from the area of Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and Peru.
A total of nine researchers and sailors will participate in the ABORA IV expedition in the early summer of 2019, which is going to sail from Sochi in Russia, on Eastern Black Sea coast, to Bulgaria’s Varna, and then via the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles (the Turkish Straits) through the Aegean (Mediterranean) Sea all the way down to the Greek island of Crete.
The reed boat for the voyage to be built by representatives of the Uru people from Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and Peru, South America, will be 12 meters long.
It is supposed to be a replica of Ancient Egyptian vessels in order explore best the maritime contacts of civilizations in the Prehistory throughout the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean.
“[The Uru people are] a community in South America, at Lake Titicaca. A lot of people are asking me the question, “What is the connection between the South American Indians, and the Ancient Egyptian ship?", Rokov has told Darik Varna in an interview.
“Well, these are just the people who to this day continue to build small ships from reed, albeit for tourism purposes," he explains.
The reed boat to be built by the representatives of the Uru people from Lake Titicaca for the Black Sea – Eastern Mediterranean voyage will be named “The Dilmun", after a mythical island from which Ancient Egypt’s pharaohs supposedly derived their treasures.
The report notes the The Dilmun is reminiscent of the Kon-Tiki raft Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl used to sail from South America to the Polynesian islands in the South Pacific in 1947.
The Dilmun reed boat will wind-powered, with one rectangular sail, and will be navigated with a system of moving keels located at the bow and the stern of the vessel.
The ABORA IV expedition from the Eastern Black Sea coast to Crete is organized by German researcher Dominique Görlitz.
A map of the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean region. Map: Wikipedia
The Ancient Egyptian reed boat replica to be built by Uru people from Lake Titicaca is going to have a very diverse international crew: in addition to archaeologists Dominique Görlitz from Germany and Teodor Rokov from Bulgaria, the other crew members will be from the USA, Russia, Armenia, Turkey, Greece, the Netherlands, and Bolivia.
“The construction [of the reed boat] will begin in [the Russian port of] Sochi in May. I hope it will be completed in one month so the actual voyage could start in June," Rokov says.
“Our route is from Sochi to Varna, and then to Istanbul through the Bosphorus Strait and the Sea of Marmara, the site of Ancient Troy, through the Dardanelles Strait into the Mediterranean. The route through the Aegean Sea will depend on the situation but it should include some of the largest Aegean islands, and then Crete is the end point," he explains.
Rokov is seen here on an experiamental sailing vessel. Photo: Archaeologist Teodor Rokov via Darik Varna
Archaeologist Teodor Rokov from the Varna Museum of Archaeology has specialized in maritime history, and the study and exploration of prehistoric and ancient sailing and water routes navigation.
His upcoming Black Sea – Eastern Mediterranean voyage with Ancient Egyptian style reed boat to be built by Uru people from Lake Titicaca will not be his first expedition with a replica of an ancient vessel.
Back in 2010, Rokov participated in an international expedition called “Danibian Odyssey" which used a prehistoric style dugout boat to sail from Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, to Bulgaria’s Black Sea port of Varna via the Danube River and the Black Sea.
The route of the Danubian Odyssey from Belgrade down the Lower Danube, then via Romania’s Danube – Black Sea Canal to the Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta, and then through the Black Sea south to Bulgaria’s Varna.
“For me [the Danubian Odyssey] was a dream come true because I had been very interested in the topic, I had published papers on the development of experimental sailing around the world, in different countries," the archaeologist says.
The research aspect aside, he makes it clear it was truly impressive to feel the freedom from sailing down the Danube River, Europe’s second largest, and then into the open sea in a dugout boat.
The prehistoric style dugout boat for the 2010 Danubian Odyssey expedition was built in Ukraine’s Black Sea port Odessa as a replica of a vessel from the Bronze Age.
“It consisted of the carved trunk of an oak tree, 12 meters long. Its deck sides were built up with pine boards. The inside was a little over 2 meters wide, just enough for two people to walks past one another. The height of the deck sides was up to the waist. So it was a very weird and memorable experience, including fitting in there with four other people," Rokov reveals.
The 2019 ABORA IV expedition will seek to explore the Prehistory maritime routes in the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean using an Ancient Egyptian style reed boat built by present-day Uru people from South America’s Lake Titicaca. Photo: Archaeologist Teodor Rokov via Darik Varna
One of the navigation aspects tested by the Danubian Odyssey expedition was how reliable was the dugout vessel without a keel in the open sea.
“The foundation of the experiment was to inspect the sailing qualities of this type of vessels – because all they have is a round bottom, and no keel – to see how it behaved in a river, and then in the open sea," the research says.
“I have to say that this [the dugout boat] is a very stable sailing vessel despite the lack of a keel, since that [heavy] part of the carved oak trunk falls below the waterline. It is very heavy, I think it weighed 4 [metric] tons without the crew. This weight beneath the waterline plays the role of ballast," he adds.
“So when we got out of the Port of Constanta into the open sea, and there a heavy sea, the [dugout] boat was extremely stable. The only thing was uncomfortable was the fact that the waves sometimes managed to overcome the low deck sides. But, on the whole, this type of vessels are extremely stable in both a river and a sea. Although they are very unmaneuverable," Rokov elaborates.
Basides his past participation in the Danubian Odyssey, and the upcoming ABORA IV expedition with the reed boat to be built by Uru people from Lake Titicaca, Rokov’s institution, the Varna Museum of Archaeology, has a long history of participating in experimental voyages.
Back in the 1980s, it took part in an expedition called Argonautica which used an yacht to sail across the Black Sea from Bulgaria to Georgia, the land of the ancient Kingdom of Colchis known from the myth of Jason and the Argonauts, the Golden Ram, and the Golden Fleece, and then down south to the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.
Another experimental voyage it has participated in is an expedition using a diving support ship to sail from Varna to the capital of Athens, Greece, tracing the way of the Spondylus mollusks.
The shells of the Mediterranean mollusk Spondylus have been found in a number of graves in Bulgaria from the 5th millennium BC Chalcolithic civilization, and one hypothesis says that they were probably used as a prehistoric form of currency.