Turkish archaeologists have unearthed what Discovery News calls the ‘Byzantine iPad.” Dated to the 9th century A.D., the wooden tool was found among a shipyard of roughly 37 ancient ships in Istanbul.
The original ‘iPad’ measures roughly seven inches, except it’s thicker and made of wood, and comprises five overlaid carved rectangular panels coated with wax, Discovery reports.
“Yenikapı is a phenomenon with its 37 sunken ships and organic products,” Ufuk Kocabaş, director of Istanbul University’s department of marine archeology and the Yenikapi Shipwrecks Project, told Hurriyet Daily News. Scientists have been excavating the site for 10 years.
“I think these organic products are the most important feature of the excavations,” says Kocabaş.
Thought to have belonged to the ship’s captain for use as a tool, the wooden box has a sliding lid underneath that hides a carved plate.
“When you draw the sliding part, there are small weights used as an assay balance,” Kocabaş said.
An assay balance is a super-sensitive tool used to assess gold, silver and other precious metals in order to determine their value. This is an important tool for a merchant ship.
The ‘tablet’ had other uses as well.
Greek writing found carved in the wax suggests that it was used to take notes, and leather straps that hold the layers together made the box relatively portable as well. Nothing compared to modern iPads of course, but portable for 9th century Turkey.
Discovery writes that a “research team from Istanbul University is now restoring the ship, 60 percent of which has survived in good condition, with the aim of having her set sail again by 2015.”
Only this time, it is likely to have more “advanced” tools on board.
Image: The Byzantine notebook. Credit: Ufuk Kocabaş