Fiumicino 5

Giulia Boetto

See this text in:


The Fiumicino 5 wreck was found in 1959 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.

The hull was salvaged in 1961 and, after conservation with a mixture of resins, was exhibited in 1979 in the Museum of the Roman Ships.Fiumicino 5 is a fishing boat, the only one of this kind known from Roman times. The hull is preserved up to the topsides for a length of 5,20. The maximum width conserved is 1,50 m while the maximum height at midship is 50/55 cm.

The hull remains

The keel

The keel, replaced in modern times, is joined with two hook scarfs to the stern-and-stemgripes. Other scarfs are present to join these elements to the stem-and-sternposts (not preserved).
The stern-and-stemgripes are rectangular in section with rabbets to fasten the garboards and the end of the other planks. The connection is made with copper nails and treenails.

The planking

The boat is single-planked and carvel built. It is formed by 6 strakes on the port side and 7 on the starboard side.
The garboards, constituted by a single plank, are 14 cm wide and 2 cm thick. These elements are joined to the middle body of the keel by pegged tenons.
The other planks have different widths (between a low of 7,5 and a high of 22 cm), while the thickness is around 1,8/2,3 cm. The stakes are assembled by mortise-and-tenon joints. The average spacing between dowels fastening the tenons is 27,7 cm. The tenons are smaller than the mortises into which they are inserted (6 cm wide and 0,5/0,6 cm thick) and both mortises and tenons are tapered.
The planks are extended with Z-scarfs.

The frames

Inside, the hull has 18 frames connected to the planking by treenails (diameter 0,9/1 cm). Alternation between floor timbers and half-frame is not respected. The distance between frames measures on average 14 cm.

The fish well

Fiumicino 5 is characterised by a well positioned in the middle body of the boat. This is an aquarium-container which was used to keep fish fresh until the sale of the catch.
The fishing well, troncopyramidal in shape with a squared base (1 m x 1m), is a box made of very thick planks (5 cm) assembled with mortise-and-tenon joints. The corners are stiffened with iron nails. The bottom transversal elements are shaped with the curvature of the hull and are fastened to the planking by copper nails driven in from the outside. The upper elements have angular recesses for a wooden lid (not preserved). The bottom of the well has 19 holes (diameter 2,5/3 cm), some with wooden plugs, to fill it with fresh sea water.

Types of wood

Because of the resin treatments, the dryness and the hardness of wood, it is possible to glean only general information regarding the species of wood used in the structure of the ship. The stern-and-stemgripe are made of oak (Quercus sp.), the planking of cypress (Cupressus sempervirens), spruce (Picea sp.) and stone pine (Pinus pinea) while the frame is of juniperus (Juniperus), stone pine (Pinus pinea), cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) and oak (Quercus sp.). One tenon is made of holm (Quercus ilex) while a peg is made of cypress. The olive tree (Olea europaea) was used to connect frame to planking. The fish well was made of stone pine, cypress, oak and elm (Ulmus sp.) .

Interpretation of the hull remains

The dating of this vessel is still uncertain. The result of C14 analysis is imprecise (92 BC/8 AD) and different if compared with the date implied by the associated material (II cent. AD).
The construction principle of Fiumicino 5 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.
Finally, the boat was propelled by oars.

To see all images of this ship, press