Fiumicino 2

Giulia Boetto

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The Fiumicino 2 wreck was the first one found in 1958 during the work on the Leonardo da Vinci 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 1959 and sheltered under a span of the Rome-Fiumicino motorway. Here it was unfortunately subject to vandalism: some pieces of the structure being removed for firewood.

After the conservation process made with a mixture of resins and some restorations with modern pieces of wood, the hull was exhibited in 1979 in the Museum of the Roman Ships.
Fiumicino 2 is a flat bottomed ship which is very similar to the Fiumicino 1 wreck. The hull bottom of Fiumicino 2 is conserved from stern to stem for a length of 13,94 m and for a width of 4,5 m. The maximum height conserved on the starboard side is 0,85 m while the port side is broken above the knee. The planking is heavily damaged and the transversal woodwork has been subject to many repairs.

The hull remains

The keel

The keel is formed by two pieces connected with a scarf. The type of the scarf is not known because of the modern restorations. The sterngripe has a rectangular section (14 cm wide and 22 cm high) and two rabbets to fit in the garboards and the end of the other planks with iron nails.
The keel, a single piece 11,32 m long, starts with a rectangular section (17 cm high, 13,5 cm wide), it then becomes an overturned trapezium (13,4 cm high, 11 cm wide). The sides are straight and not moulded for connection with the garboards.

The planking

The ship is single planked and carvel built. The garboards are formed by two elements both on the starboard and port side (27 cm wide and 5,5 cm). The scarfs between these two planks are not original but there are two modern repairs. The assembly of the garboards with the middle body of the keel is made by mortise-and-tenon joints. The tenons are, as usual, pegged.
There are 42 other planks. If we consider the transversal section in the central body of the ship, there are 9 stakes on the starboard side and 4 on the port side. The starboard planks have decreasing lengths towards the knee (from a high of 8,92 to a low of 7,27 m), while they are very thick (more than 5.5 cm).
These planks, wide on average 35 cm, are sharpened and aft-and-forwards are joined to narrower and thinner planks by mortise-and tenon joints and iron nails driven into the board edges. In this manner it was possible to close the hull shape at the ends.

This structure of the planking is very similar to the Fiumicino 1 one but is of larger dimensions.
Contrary to Fiumicino 1, the structure of this wreck (planking and keel) seems not to have been repaired in ancient times, because of the homogeneity of the mortise-and-tenon joints with the pegged tenons. Few unpegged tenons are present at the end of the middle body planks in correspondence with the longitudinal joints.
The distance between pegs fixing the tenons is irregular and measures on average 42,3 cm. The tenons (5/7,8 cm wide and 1 cm thick) are smaller than the mortises into which they are inserted (6.5/10 cm wide, 1,1/2 cm thick and 4,8/5 cm deep) and both mortises and tenons are tapered. The pegs are lightly troncoconical and seem to have been driven from the inside of the hull.

The frames

In the interior of the hull, there are 35 frames connected to the planking with iron nails (squared shaft of 1/1,3 cm; head diameter 4/5 cm) driven through pre-inserted treenails (1,2/1,5 cm). The average distance between floor timbers and half frame is 24,5 cm.
Actually, three floor timbers are connected to the keel with iron bolts similar to big nails driven in from the bottom of the keel (diameter 2,2/2,4 cm). It is possible that other bolts are now hidden by modern restorations.

The types of wood

The types of wood used in the structure have been identified as stone pine (Pinus pinea) and oak (Quercus sp.) for the planking, the keel and the frame. The holm (Quercus ilex) and the ash (Fraxinus excelsior) were used for the tenons and pegs while willow (Salix sp.) was used for the pre-inserted treenails connecting frame to planking.

Interpretation of the hull remains

In brief, the Fiumicino 2 wreck has technological characteristics which are very similar to the Fiumicino 1 ones. These are:
- the structure of the longitudinal carpentry (planking and keel);
- the structure of the transversal carpentry (frame);
- the joints (mortise-and-tenons, iron nails in the board edges, iron nails into pre-inserted treenails, iron bolts).
For these reasons, Fiumicino 2 seems to be the same type of ship as Fiumicino 1 but larger in size.

The technological features together with the assumption that Fiumicino 1 and Fiumicino 2 are "sister ships", leads us to other conclusions about:
1. the date of the ship; 2. the principle and methods of construction; 3. the type of ship.


The dating of Fiumicino 2 is still uncertain. The result of C14 analysis is imprecise (130 ± 50 AD). The late date of the ship, in absence of associated material, seems confirmed from: The high distance between mortise-and-tenon joints. Similar characteristics are 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 widespread use of iron (nails driven through pre-inserted treenails) to fasten the frame to the planking.

Principles and methods of construction

The principle of construction is shell-first because of the general homogeneity of the planking while the floor timbers bolted to the keel probably are connected to "skeleton-first" construction processes.

Type of ship

The type of ship is the same proposed for Fiumicino 1, even if here the keelson to support a towing mast is not present. The general structure of the hull, with the curved stern and the elongated stem lead us believe that Fiumicino 2 could be a caudicaria navis too.

The family of the caudicariae naves - towed boats utilised on the Tiber river up the city of Rome - is known not only from ancient sources (Sen., De Brev. Vitae,XIII, 4; Varr. and Sall. apud Nonnius s.v.; Isid., Etym. sive Orig., XIX, I, 27), but also from several pictorial representations dating from the II to the IV century AD, such as the Vaticano fresco, the Piazzale delle Corporazioni mosaic, the Museo Nazionale Romano and the Salerno reliefs.
Distinctive elements of the family are: the rounded hull at stern, the elongated stem typical of river barges, the advanced towing mast with cleats, the absence of sails, the tow line fastened to a bollard on the mast and towing posts or a little support at the gunwale, the lateral rudder, the deck and a stern cabin.
Finally, Fiumicino 2 was towed from the right bank by beats as is reported by Procopius (Bell. Goth., V, XXVI), a practice used on the Tiber until the XIXth century.

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