Discovery and state of preservation
Like ships 1,2,3 and 5, Ship 4 was also discovered in the winter of 1981/82 during building-work for the Hotel Hilton II in Mainz. Only the five uppermost port rows of planking aft survived. The lower planks, the keel, the sternpost, the bows and the complete starboard are missing. The remnant measures 10×80 m in length and 1×20 m in width.
Oak was used to build Ship 4. Its dendrochronolgical examination revealed only a very inconclusive date of A.D. 393; all other specimens allowed no dating whatsoever. However, since Ship 4 resembles both late Roman ships 1 and 5 from Mainz, one can safely place in the 4th century, too.
Very probably this wreck belongs to a Roman military vessel of Type Mainz A. It is a rapid rowing ship, which was also furnished with tackling equipment for sailing, and served as a troop-ship. Reproduction 1 in the Museum for Ancient Shipping in Mainz shows how such a ship originally looked like.
Like the other late Roman ships from Mainz, wreck 4 is also carvel-built without the approx. 2 cm thick and 24 - 26 cm wide planks being connected to one another by mortise-and-tenon joints, as was usual with ships of Mediterranean construction. The 3rd and 5th rows of planks, counting from the hull, are so-called stealers, i.e. rows of planking which do not reach the ship’s ends, but terminate prematurely. The second row of planks beneath the bulwark displays a Z-shaped scarf.
Different types of frames are discernible within the system of frames. Certainly, mostly tripartite frames of two separate side-frames and a bottom timber were built, but in addition one also finds scarved futtocks,
which indicate that Ship 4 also possessed composite frames. In the Mainz ships one otherwise knows this type of frame only from Ship 3. The usually 7 cm thick and 12 cm wide frames are connected to the planks by means of iron nails.
The steering system is comparable to those of ships 1 and 2, even though there are only a few indications of its existence: a hole sawn into the hull, lateral recesses in the frames at the same position, as well as the internal stanchion of the rudder-beam.
Ship 4 differs from all the other late Roman wrecks from Mainz in the 28 - 30 cm wide and 2 cm thick ceiling-boards, which completely line the inside of the hull. One can clearly recognise the recesses for the rowers’ thwarts in the uppermost ceiling-planks (1). Originally, transverse timbers for the footrests lay in the rectangular notches in the 2nd ceiling (2). The holes in the lower ceiling-planks served as supports for transverse planking carrying the boards (3).
The gunwale was well-preserved. It consisted of the exterior 5 cm thick and 17 cm wide fender and the interior 6 cm thick and 12 cm wide inwale with an almost semi-circular section. In contrast to Ship 1 with its continuous covering-board as upper terminal of the gunwales, the thole-pins of Ship 4 stuck in separately constructed rowlocks, whose wide lower pegs fitted in the gap between two frames.
Ship 4, which is preserved with artificial resin, can be seen in the Museum of Ancient Shipping in its excavated setting.
Translation by Clive Bridger, Xanten