Discovery, state of preservation and dating
Type and function
Means of propulsion
During house-building in early 1982 between the Holzstraße and the Kappelhofgasse, some 500 m south of the site of the late Roman ships, the remains of two prams were discovered. Apart from a 2 m long part of the better preserved wreck, designated Ship Mainz 6, they were not recovered. At the time of discovery Mainz 6 was still 11 m long, 2×60 m wide and 92 cm high. The whole of the starboard was missing. All constructional elements consisted of oakwood which according to dendrochronological analysis was felled in the spring of A.D. 81.
Ship 6 from Mainz belongs to Type Zwammerdam, well-attested in the Gallo-Germanic region. These are boats with flat bottoms and ramp-like sloping ends, which allowed these vessels to load and unload on a natural river-bank. Their characteristic element, however, is the L-shaped chine-block, comprising a single, correspondingly worked tree-trunk, which connects the flat bottom with the extended, slightly angled sides. The box-like shape, which even when fully loaded only needed a minimal draught, predestined this type for transporting heavy loads on rivers.
The bottom of Ship 6 originally consisted of five planks, of which the two port and the middle planks have survived. They are 58, 74 and 70 cm wide and 3 cm thick. The bottom part of the chine-girder possesses an internal width of 47 cm and a thickness of 3 cm, the vertical section measures 61 cm. The thickness here
is 5 cm. The tree from which the piece was worked in Roman times must have had a diameter of at least 1×10 m.
The bulwark is heightened by means of a 41 cm wide and 5 cm thick rubbing-strake. It had been nailed to the chine-girder with an overlap. A rim, worked out of the timber at the top, compensated for a fender.
In the case of the 15 - 20 cm wide and 7 cm thick half-frames the bottom-timbers and futtocks were worked from a single piece. For the bottom piece a tree-trunk was used, for the vertical futtock a strong branch.
All constructional elements are fastened by iron nails. Moreover, iron bands on the underside of the hull protect the seams of the planks from damage. In the same way one had sealed a crack in a chine-girder which had developed during ancient times. Admittedly, the metal stay was no longer preserved, but a trace of rust and the nails employed to fasten it were still very noticeable.
As in all ships of Type Zwammerdam, there are no indications of a steering system on Ship Mainz 6, either. It must be assumed, therefore, that these ships were punted, paddled or towed. Certainly, they could be sailed, as corresponding parallel finds show. Admittedly, Ship 6 from Mainz did not possess a keelson, such as Ship Zwammerdam 2, but at the position, where a mast-frame such as in Ship Woerden 1 would be expected, a gaping hole exists in Mainz 6. Perhaps this constructional element had been ripped out, before the river-bank was eventually strengthened using the remaining hull.
The ship, which is preserved with artificial resin, can be seen in the Museum of Ancient Shipping in its state afloat. A model to the scale of 1:10 shows the reconstructed dimensions of approx. 40 m long and 5 m wide.
Translation by Clive Bridger, Xanten