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Roman Ships Discovered Intact

Dateline: 4/19/99
[Updated 4/21/99]

According to an ABC News report on April 14, 1999, while extending the Genoa-Rome Railway line in Pisa [URL = WWW.PISAONLINE.IT/PISA/town/pagine/history.htm], archaeologists have found eight pristine Roman ships since February buried in the mud of what was once a harbor. One of the ships currently being excavated may be the first fully preserved warship from antiquity. These ships are believed to be part of a much larger fleet.

Dampness coupled with only a small amount of oxygen preserved the archaeological find for centuries. In addition to the ships ranging in length from 24-90 feet, archaeologists have uncovered Punic and Roman style amphoras that once contained fruits and nuts from the second century AD. [UPDATE (4/22/99): According to the April 21 Times, British archaeologists now tentatively date them from the third to fifth century. The actual age will be determined by carbon-dating of the wood.]

On April 20 the site was opened to specialists and journalists who are trying to answer many questions including:

Why are there so many ships together?

Excerpt from the Times:

"The Superintendent of Archaeology at Pisa, Guglielmo Malchiodi, said it appeared that the ships had all fallen victim to a "Pompeii-type catastrophe, perhaps a flash flood, which overwhelmed them". But Elena Rossi, one of the leading archaeologists working on the ships, believes that they had all suffered different fates at different times. "Some may have foundered, others sunk in storms, and others went to the bottom in a flood," she said. "

Also see: [link no longer working] www.theaustralian.com.au/world/4332452.htm Roman ships refloat past, by Richard Owen of The Times in Rome

For those who can read Italian, more information can be found at Archeologia Italiana :

UPDATE 5/13/99: Shipwrecks
Article on Greco-Roman shipwrecks, from Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites.

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