Fiumicino 4

Giulia Boetto

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Introduction

The Fiumicino 4 wreck was found in 1965 during work on Leonardo da Vinci airport at Fiumicino (Rome) on the site of the ancient harbour basin built in 42 AD by the emperor Claudius.

This hull was salvaged in 1968 in very good condition. After a conservation process made with a mixture of resins, it was exhibited in 1979 in the Museum of the Roman Ships.
The hull of Fiumicino 4 is characterised by a very elegant shape with a concave-convex section typical of maritime ships.
The vessel is conserved for a length of 7.96 m and for a maximum width of 2,79 m. The starboard side is preserved for a maximum height of 77 cm while the port side is broken along the knee.


The hull remains

The keel

The keel is joined to the stern-and-stemgripes by hook scarfs. These are partially restored because the butts of the keel have been replaced with two modern pieces of wood.
The stern-and-stemgripes have rectangular sections (6/6,5 cm wide and 13/14 cm high) with two rabbets to fit the garboards in place (made with a single plank) and the end of the other strakes. The connection is made by unpegged tenons and iron nails.


The planking

The planking is single and carvel built. There are a total of 39 planks, of which there are 23 on the starboard side and 17 on the port side. The average thickness is 2,5 cm, while the lengths go from a high of 7,58 to a low of 4,30 m and the widths fall between 17 and 7,7 cm.
The assembly of the strakes is made by mortise-and-tenon joints and the average spacing between pegs fixing tenons is 27,2 cm. The tenons are smaller than the mortises into which they are inserted (5,2/6,8 cm wide, 3/4,5 cm deep and 0,55/0,9 cm thick) and both mortises and tenons are tapered. The treenails are lightly troncoconical (0,8/0,95 cm and seem to have been driven in from the interior of the hull.
The planks are extended longitudinally by Z-scarfs.

The frames

Fiumicino 4 also possesses 22 frames. Their average distance is 25 cm and the cross section is rectangular, squared or rhomboidal because of the deformation of the wood.
The floor timbers towards stern and stem are larger and higher than the others which have widths between 6 and 4 cm and heights of 5,5/3 cm. The frames are fastened to the planking by wooden treenails (diameter 1,3/1,5 cm). In addition, the starboard side conserves 5 futtocks only butted to the floor timbers.

The ceiling

In the interior, the hull presents some elements of the longitudinal internal woodwork, such as stringers and ceiling. These are deformed and not in the original position because they shifted after the salvaging of the hull.

The mast area

The mast step (1,17 m long, 14,6 cm wide and 12 cm high) is set parallel to the keel and has a rectangular recess with a slide to lower the mast. Aftwards, there is also another recess to insert a stanchion to support the mast.
The mast step is situated side by side with two lateral posts in which, aftwards, there are two semicircular recesses in which the bilge pump (not conserved) would have been fitted.

Types of wood

The types of wood used in the structure of the ship have been identified as holm (Quercus ilex) for the keel, oak (Quercus sp.) for the stern-and-stemgripes, cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) for the planking. The oak, the holm, the walnut (Juglans regia) and the stone pine (Pinus pinea) were used for the frame. Many different types of wood were used for the ceiling while the mast step is made of stone pine. The holm was used for tenons while the olive tree (Olea europaea), the willow (Salix sp.), the cypress, the black pine (Pinus cf. nigra) were used for the pegs. The olive tree was used for the treenails connecting frame to planking.

Interpretation of the hull remains

The dating of Fiumicino 4 is still uncertain. The results of C14 analysis is imprecise (170 ± 50 AD) an very different if compared with the date given by the associated material (II-III cent. AD).
The construction principle of Fiumicino 4 is shell-first because of the homogeneity of the mortise-and-tenon joints, the weakness of the frames and the absence of connection between these and the keel.
Fiumicino 4 was a cargo ship used in coastal trade or a fishing ship. The propulsion systen consisted of a single squared sail supported by a mast set slightly forward in the ship.


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