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The Fiumicino 1 wreck was found in 1959 during work on Leonardo
airport at Fiumicino (Rome) on the site of the ancient harbour
basin built in
42 AD by the emperor Claudius. The hull was salvaged in 1961 and,
conservation with a mixture of resins, was exhibited in 1979 in
the Museum of the Roman Ships.
Fiumicino 1 is a flat bottomed ship. Her shape and structure resemble
Fiumicino 2, but she is better preserved in the upper lines of
The wreck is conserved from sternpost to stem for a length of
13,83 m. The
starboard side from the middle body forward is 1,47 m high, while
remaining part and the port side are broken along the knee. The
maximum width conserved is of 4,57 m.
The hull remains
The keel is made of two pieces: the sterngripe and the keel. The
former (2,72 m long) is joined to the keel with a hook scarf but
this scarf is not fixed by a transversal bolt, as is normal in
other Roman ships. The internal step of the scarf is stiffened
by three wooden pegs.
The sterngripe (10/12 cm wide and 16 cm high) has asymmetric rabbets
the garboard and the ends of the other planks. The connection
is made with
The keel, a single piece of wood 11,11 m long, starts with a rectangular
section (17 cm high, 13 cm wide), it then becomes an overturned
trapezium (15 cm high, 12/9 cm wide) and then a square (10,5 cm
high, 10 cm wide). The sides are straight and not moulded for
connection with the garboards.
The ship is single planked and carvel built.
Along the starboard side, the garboard is formed by two planks
(30 cm wide
and respectively 4,5 cm and 3,5 cm thick) and, on the port side,
by a single
plank (length 12, 51 m, 24 cm wide and 3 cm thick). The assembly
middle body of the keel is made by mortise-and-tenon joints. Along
starboard side the tenons are fixed by treenails only on the garboard
on the keel, while on port side the tenons are unpegged. From
surface of garboards, transversal iron nails have been driven
into the keel.
Troncopyramidal holes have been cut to avoid protrusion of the
The middle body of the ship has six strakes on both sides, with
wide planks (29-40 cm). The average thickness is 4,4 cm, while
in general the length is more than 6 m.
These planks are sharpened
and connected to the other
planks, which are narrower and thinner, by tenon-and-mortise joints
and by iron nails driven into the board edges. In this manner
it was possible to close the hull
shape at the ends of the ship.
The planking is assembled by mortise-and-tenon joints. The distance
pegs fixing tenons is irregular and measures on average 41,5 cm.
(4,3 cm wide, 0,3/0,6 thick, 8/9 cm high) are much smaller than
into which they are inserted (7,4 cm wide, 0,7/1 cm thick and
4,5 cm deep)
and both mortises and tenons are highly tapered. The pegs are
troncoconical and have been driven from the inside of the hull
diameter 1,1/1,3 cm, external 0,7/1,0 cm). The section is polygonal
characteristic narrowing caused by the movement of the tenons
There are also planks with unpegged tenons and planks without
These ancient repairs have been fixed to the frame only by iron
while in the adjacent planks there are the mortises of the precedent
The port side garboard and perhaps also the keel have been replaced.
This allows us to understand why there are tenons pegged only
along the starboard side and transversal nails to strengthen the
structure. Moreover, there is a very thin plank, a sort of
"stopgap", nailed to frames between port side garboard
and the second strake
Perhaps the unpegged tenons of the other planks are indicators
repairs, but this is also a constructional characteristic of this
fact, a "loose" fragment of wale, probably belonging
to the ship, has pegged
treenails along one border and unpegged tenons along the other.
the external border of the starboard side planks, we have recorded
alternation between pegged and unpegged tenons.
The ship now possess 42 frames, rectangular or trapezoidal in
cm wide and 7/12 cm high) while the first floor timbers aftward
(from a low of 13 to a high of 18 cm). In general, the frames
are arranged in
the common pattern of floor timbers alternating with half frames
distance is irregular (on average 19 cm). On the starboard side,
preserved futtocks are not fastened to the floor timbers.
The ship has rectangular limber holes (5 cm wide and 3 cm high),
one in a
central position along the keel and two in lateral positions along
strake. Where the half frames are very narrow there is a half
limber hole on
The frame is fastened to planking by nails (squared shaft of 1/1,2
diameter 3,8/4,4 cm) driven through pre-inserted treenails (diameter
1,5 cm). Originally, the tips were clinched on the timbers.
Five floor-timbers are bolted to the keel. A sixth bolt has been
through the sterngripe. The iron bolts are long nails driven from
of the keel passing through the limber holes (head diameter 4/4,5
decreasing shaft diameter from 2,5/2,2 cm to 1,6 cm). Through
timber the section becomes squared (sides of 1,2 cm) and the bolts
are driven into a pre-inserted treenail, similar to the other
links between frame and
planking. These bolts were clinched on the floor timbers.
The keelson (2,75 m long, from 5 to 10 cm wide and 15 cm high)
is no longer in the right position: originally it was further
forward and fastened to
the frame and the keel by the iron bolts. On the upper surface,
there is a
very simple mast step with a slide to lower the mast (15 cm long,
5 cm wide
and 6 cm deep) and a squared recess to support a stanchion (sides
of 5 cm,
depth of 3,5 cm).
Two displaced fragments of internal planks are conserved too. The former is
5,29 m long while the second measures 1,71 m. Moreover, both are 14 cm wide
and 3,5 cm thick. The longer one has empty holes probably for iron nails used
to fix it to frame. However, no traces of tips of iron nails are present on
the upper surface of framing, testimony to the presence of a fixed planking
on the bottom of the ship.
The Types of wood
Because of the resin treatments and the dryness and the hardness of wood, it
is possible to glean only general information regarding the types of wood used
in the structure of the ship. These have been identified as cypress (Cupressus
sempervirens), stone pine (Pinus pinea) and oak (Quercus sp.)
for the planking, oak (Quercus sp.) for the keel and the keelson and,
together with holm (Quercus ilex) for the frame. The holm was used also
for tenons and pegs while willow (Salix sp.) was used for the pre-inserted
treenails connecting frame to planking.
The Tool marks
Some tool marks have been recorded on Fiumicino 1. A saw has been used to make
logs into planking for the external and internal longitudinal woodwork. The
use of adzes is evident in the lowering of the external surface of some planks
to avoid the protrusion of the nail heads. Also the bottom of starboard garboard
has been trimmed by adze to connect it to the rabbet of the sterngripe. The
adze was used for the frame, but evidence of the use of a saw is also apparent.
Interpretation of hull remains
These technological observations about the ancient system of construction
allow us to advance some hypotheses on:
1. the date of the ship;
2. the principles and methods of construction;
3. the type of ship.
The date of Fiumicino 1 is still uncertain. The result of
is imprecise (13050 AD) and very different if compared with the
given by the associated material (IV-V cent. AD). However, the
late date of
the ship seems confirmed by some structural characteristics:
The high spaced mortise-and-tenon joints. Similar characteristics
present on the IV century AD wrecks of the County Hall, Yassi
Ada II, Dramont
E and on the V cent. AD wreck Dramont F.
The shape and size of the mortise-and-tenon joints are similar
to those of
the Yassi Ada II.
The presence of unpegged tenons as in the byzantine Yassi Ada
The widespread use of iron (nails driven through pre-inserted
fasten the frame to the planking.
Principles and methods of construction
The Fiumicino 1 appears to be based on the "shell-first"
principle because of:
the general homogeneity of the planking with tenon-and-mortise
the weaknesses in the frames with futtocks not fastened to floor
and, in general, the absence of connection between these and the
However, we have recorded some particular construction processes.
floor timbers bolted to the keel;
transversal iron nails connecting garboards to keel;
looseness of tenons.
Finally, it is possible that the numerous repairs and substitutions
are probably in part "skeleton-first" construction solutions
processes - are tied to the long life of this river barge, to
interventions on it and to the necessity of strengthening the
structure of the hull.
Type of ship
The analysis of the hull allows us to identify Fiumicino 1
particular type of ship. First of all, we are forced to conclude
original position of the keelson was much further forward, because
bolts connecting it to the frames and to the keel. In addition,
position is also confirmed by the photographs taken during the
Moreover, the maststep has an internal slide to lower the mast
indicates the position of the prow, while the previous studies
identified the stern of the ship as the stem.
The general structure of the hull, with the curved stern, the
and the mast which is set forward of the centre of gravity in
the fore part
of the vessel, lead us believe that Fiumicino 1 could be a caudicaria
The family of the caudicariae naves - towed boats utilised
on the Tiber
up the city of Rome - is known not only from ancient sources (Sen.,
Vitae, XIII, 4; Varr. and Sall. apud Nonnius s.v.;
Isid., Etym. sive Orig.,
XIX, I, 27), but also from several pictorial representations dating
II to the IV century AD, such as the Vaticano fresco, the Piazzale
Corporazioni mosaic, the Museo Nazionale Romano and the Salerno
Distinctive elements of the family are: the rounded hull at stern,
elongated stem typical of river barges, the advanced towing mast
the absence of sails, the tow line fastened to a bollard on the
towing posts or a small support at the gunwale, the lateral rudder,
and a stern cabin.
In Fiumicino 1, the tow line was fastened to the mast on the centreline
between 20% and 40% of the length from the bow, so the boat was
parallel to the near bank with minimum use of the steering device.
maststep is indeed very simple and of limited size. It is more
similar to a
foremast and we do not know if the mast was also used for a spritsail,
because dual purpose masts are known of and because of the difficulty
differentiating towing masts and their fittings from masts for
Finally, Fiumicino 1 was towed from the right bank by beats as
Procopius (Bell. Goth., V, XXVI), a practice used on the Tiber
river till the
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