Ship Oberstimm 2

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Discovery and state of preservation
Constructional details


Discovery and state of preservation

In 1986 two ships were discovered in an archaeological trial-trench in a now displaced tributary of the Danube 50 metres west of the Roman fort of Oberstimm near Ingolstadt. In 1994 both ships were excavated by members of the Museum of Ancient Shipping in Mainz and brought to Mainz for conservation, restoration and scientific analysis. Unlike Oberstimm 1, the lower four rows of planks on the portside of Oberstimm 2 had also survived. On the other hand, the uppermost 8th strake of starboard planks with the recesses for the tholes was missing. The mechanical digger had destroyed the port planks, the keel and the starboard strakes of planks 1 and 2.

As with Oberstimm 1, Oberstimm 2, too, does not survive to its complete length. Since the bows and stern are missing, only 14,4 m of the originally longer ship remain. The reconstructed ship measures approximately 15,4 m long, 2,7 m wide and 1 m high.


In the case of Oberstimm 2 the planking consists of fir, while the keel, keelson and frames are of oak. Dendrochronological analyses of the oak resulted in felling dates of A.D. 90 +- 10 and 102 +- 10 years. Oak piles rammed into the ground to revet the bank and piercing both ships were felled in 118. Thus, both ships belong to the Domitianic-Trajanic period and were not in use for very long.


The keelson on the one hand and the recesses for the thwarts on the other prove that the ship Oberstimm 2, like Oberstimm 1, could be both rowed and sailed. The narrow hull with a length to width ratio of 6:1, as well as the very narrow bows and stern indicate that Oberstimm 2, like Oberstimm 1, was a military vessel.


Constructional details


The 10 cm high keel is of oak. Its width is 7 cm below and 13 cm above. As with Oberstimm 1 it rises towards the bows and the stern. The slots for the mortise-and-tenon joints with the 1st strake are slightly bent, so that these tongues were wedged into the keel.

At the stern two unusually large iron nails had been driven into the keel from the outside. They probably held the sternpost, which on the evidence of the nails' length terminated below in a high block.


The 4 cm thick, 14 - 24 cm wide planks of fir have mortise-and-tenon joints at intervals of roughly 15-25 cm. The tongues are fastened with little wooden pegs. As with Oberstimm 1, the timber for the planks of ship Oberstimm 2 is also worked in such a way that each plank when dried arched concavely towards the exterior, i.e. against the contours of the hull. This measure gave the tenons additional stability.

Of the seven surviving strakes, the 3rd and 5th are stealers, the ends of which are fixed by iron nails driven into the narrow sides of the planks. The 7th strake comprises a 10 x 10 cm thick wale. All the seams of the planking were sealed with caulking.


The 6 - 7 cm wide and 7 - 9 cm thick oak frames consist partly of half-frames (frames 8, 12, 13, 15 and 17). The remaining frames run continuously through the flooring and are scarfed on the starboard in the area of the vertical part of the hull. The port scarves have not survived. All frames are fastened with 2 cm thick treenails.

Interior fittings

Apart from the damage caused by the mechanical digger in 1986, the 7A50 m long, roughly 15 cm high keelson has completely survived. Beside the maststep, it has smaller rectangular holes at the height of the recesses for the rowers' benches on the wale; the thwarts themselves have not survived on ship Oberstimm 2, unlike on Oberstimm 1. This find indicates that the thwarts originally ran continuously from side to side and rested on an additional stanchion in the middle. In the 6th and 7th (= wale) strake recesses for five rowers' benches in all have survived. For the whole of the reconstructed ship, one can reckon with nine thwarts.

Treenails driven into some frames from the inside, irregularly spaced but always at the same height, point to a stringer. On it must have lain a transverse timber, which served the rowers as a footrest.

Ship 2 has been conserved in the Museum of Ancient Shipping in Mainz and is in the process of being prepared for exhibition. A model to the scale of 1:10 shows the completely reconstructed ship.

Barbara Pferdehirt

Translation by Clive Bridger



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