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Discovery and state of preservation
Discovery and state of preservation
Ship 1 was discovered in November 1981 in the construction trench of the Hotel Hilton II between the Rheinstraße and the Löhrstraße. It lay with its left stern side on the slope of the river-bank. Thus, only the ship’s side consisting of seven rows of planks upto the gunwale on the port survived. From the starboard only the lowest three rows of planks remained. The rest, including the fore with mast-frame and bows, has decomposed. Today the wreck is still 8,20 m long, 1,80 m wide and 1 m high.
Dendrochronological analyses showed that the oak used to build Ship 1 was felled in the years around A.D. 376. Repairs were apparently carried out in 385 and 394. Of particular significance is a bronze coin, which had been placed as an offering between the hull and frame 2 at the height of the 4th row of planks. It was struck in the years 388-392 under Emperor Theodosius I.
Ship 1, like ships 2, 4 und 5 from Mainz, belongs to a type of ship known in academic literature as Type Mainz A. Its original appearance is demonstrated by the reconstruction Mainz A in the Museum of Ancient Shipping in Mainz. The type is a narrow, rapid rowing ship, which with favourable winds could also be sailed and which served as a troop-ship.
Like each of the five late Roman ships from Mainz, Ship 1 had been constructed with the aid of moulds (templates designating the shape of the hull). It is carvel-built employing 2 cm thick and 20 - 24 cm wide planks set one above another without additional mortise-and-tenon joints. The 2nd and 4th rows of planks are stealers. There is an obtuse scarf in the 5th row of planks at the stern. The 5 cm thick and 25 cm wide keel has a ‘bilgerinne’ along the middle. At its stern end a sternpost of a naturally curved piece of wood has been attached. At intervals of 31 - 32 cm the ancient shipwright had scratched the position of the frames on the keel.
The system of frames employed in Ship 1 consists of bottom floor timbers and separately adjoining lateral half-frames for the ship’s sides. They are usually situated aft the floor timbers. The last floor timbers, which already rest on the sternpost, comprise correspondingly natural forked branches.
For the gunwale the uppermost plank was strengthened on the outside by a fender, on the inside by an inwale. On the thus widened side a covering board had been lain. This consisted of a halved tree-trunk, which had been worked down to 2 cm thickness at regular intervals. Thole-pins were fastened in the recesses of the semi-circular rowlocks for the oars. There are also recesses in the flat parts of the covering board for fastening the rail.
Stringers and longitudinal stiffeners in the ship’s interior give testimony to the interior construction. The thwart clamp immediately beneath the inwale displays recesses for the rowers’ benches. The other end of the benches lay on supports fastened to the frames on the ship’s bottom parallel to the keel. The bench-supports are joined to one another by three narrow stringers, which correspond to further stringers on the hull’s inner wall. Apart from their function as longitudinal stiffeners, the stringers formed the supports for the transverse beams, as shown by appropriate notches. One can distinguish between former beams for the side decks and two beams set obliquely to one another for the foot-stretcher of the rowers.
A part of the 8×2 by 9×0 cm thick transverse beam, which acted as a counterpoise for both of the lateral steering oars, has survived from the helm of Ship 1. It was supported below by two bent, heavy wooden pieces outboards. Whereas the inner one, which was fixed immediately to the hull, has survived, only a square port in the rudder-beam testifies to the outer one, which was connected obliquely to the inner support. The function of a further square port on the front of the rudder-beam cannot be explained at present.
Ship 1, which is preserved with artificial resin, stands in the permanent exhibition of the Museum of Ancient Shipping and can be seen in its excavated setting.
Translation by Clive Bridger, Xanten