Ship Mainz 5

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Discovery and state of preservation
Dating
Function
Constructional details
Conservation


Discovery and state of preservation

The late Roman Ship 5 from Mainz was discovered together with four others in the winter of 1981/82 in the construction trench of the Hilton Hotel II in the Löhrstraße. Originally 16 m long, only the front 9 m long section from the bows to just aft the mast-frame was able to be recovered. This sets Ship 5 apart from the other late Roman wrecks, as in ships 1, 2, 3 and 4 only the sterns have survived the rigours of time. On both sides the hull is present to the bilge. The beam at the mast measures 1×95 m, the height 42 cm.


Dating

According to the dendrochronological analyses the oaks employed in the building were felled in the 380s and 390s. As in Ship 1, a bronze coin was found between a frame and the hull in Ship 5, too. Its bad state of preservation, however, prevents any dating.

 

Function

Ship 5 belongs to Type A of the late Roman ships from Mainz, a rapid troop-ship, as represented by reconstruction Mainz A in the Museum of Ancient Shipping in Mainz. Such vessels could be rowed and sailed and were intended for use on rivers.



Constructional details

Planking

In this vessel, too, the 2 - 2×5 cm thick, 21 - 24 cm wide planks were carvel-built without mortise-and-tenon joints. Of the five rows of planks on each side the 3rd and 5th rows can be described as stealers. An obtuse scarf could be observed on the row port 1. The hull was held together by iron nails bonding the planks and the frames, whereby the nails had been driven through pre-drilled holes plugged with dowels.

Keel

Measuring 8 by 20 cm the keel is the highest of the late Roman ships from Mainz. Along its centre one can easily recognise the channel for the bilge-water. On the keel one can find at intervals of about 35 cm the shipwright’s marks for the frames. The position of the mast-frame was particularly accentuated by a St. Andrew’s cross. The butt plank of the stempost rests at the front end of the keel and is fastened by a bolt.





Prow

The stempost comprises a naturally bent piece of wood, whose point ends 42 cm above the keel. At this point it is too narrow to conclude that it was longer in Roman times. There is no evidence of any scarf, for instance in the form of an iron bolt or similar. This allows one to conclude that Ship 5 possessed an inswinging warship’s bow, such as reconstruction Mainz A shows. In this construction a concave middle stempost, on the lower end of which two side stemposts going right and left were attached, stood on the short stempost. As a result of the small distance from the front frame to the point of the stempost, the angle would be too acute for planks to be attached to this middle stempost; they would simply break apart. One must therefore assume that the prow was covered with boards separately, i.e. the whole prow with middle and side stemposts, as well as the boards, was a separate constructive element placed upon the stempost and closing the ship at the front.



Frames

As in Ship 1 the system of frames in Ship 5 consisted of floor-timbers and separate side-frames. Whereas the side-frames in the fore sit in front of the floor-timbers, behind the mast they are situated aft the floor-timbers. Only the three foremost frames, which sit on the stempost, were worked from forked branches. Usually, the frames have a thickness of 5 cm and a width of 10 - 15 cm. The mast-frame with flattened lateral pieces proves that Ship 5 possessed a sailing system.


Interior fittings

Of the interior fittings remains of the thwart-stanchions next to the keel have been preserved. As in the case of Ship 1 they were joined to one another by longitudinal stiffeners, in order to give them a certain stability. However, with Ship 5 only the lowest longitudinal stiffener survived the long period of deposition in the ground. Together with a stringer on the hull it served simultaneously as support for thin transversal timbers, on which the longitudinal board-planks were lain left and right of the keel.

Conservation

Ship 3, which is preserved with artificial resin, can be seen in the exhibition in its state afloat.



Barbara Pferdehirt

Translation by Clive Bridger, Xanten



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