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Ancient Roman Ship Uncovered in Serbia

Archaeologists meticulously uncovered the ancient Roman ship at the Viminacium site in Serbia.
Archaeologists meticulously uncovered an ancient Roman ship at the Viminacium site in Serbia. Credit: Carole Raddato / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Archaeologists in Serbia are carefully removing sand and soil from an ancient Roman ship found in a large coal quarry that was excavated by miners.

When an excavator at the Drmno mine exposed some timber, experts from the nearby former Roman settlement called Viminacium quickly moved to protect and preserve the ship’s skeleton. This is the second time such a discovery has been made in the area since 2020.

Details of the ship

The ship was likely a member of a fleet that operated on the river, serving the extensive and well-developed Roman city, which was home to around forty-five thousand people.

The city boasted a range of notable features, including a hippodrome, fortifications, a forum, a palace, temples, an amphitheater, aqueducts, baths, and workshops.

According to lead archaeologist Miomir Korac, earlier discoveries indicate that the ship could be from the 3rd or 4th century AD.

This period coincides with the time when Viminacium served as the capital of the Roman province of Moesia Superior and had a port located close to a tributary of the Danube River.

“We may assume that this ship is Roman, but we are unsure of its exact age,” Korac revealed while standing at the dusty site, perched on the edge of a massive open coal pit.

Korac mentioned that they first sprayed the wood with water and then covered it with a tarpaulin to protect it from decay in the scorching summer heat.

Theory presented by the archaeologists

Archaeologists have a theory that the two ships and three canoes discovered in the region either sank or were left abandoned along the riverbank.

The plan is to exhibit the recent finding along with the thousands of artifacts retrieved from Viminacium near the town of Kostolac, which is situated 70 km (45 miles) east of Belgrade.

Mladen Jovicic, a member of the team involved in the excavation of the newly discovered ship, mentioned that it would be challenging to move its thirteen-meter hull without causing any damage.

To handle this, their engineering colleagues will design a special structure that a crane will lift, and then they will proceed with a careful and gradual conservation process.

Excavations at Viminacium

The excavations at Viminacium have been ongoing since 1882, but despite the long duration, archaeologists believe they have explored only about five percent of the site.

The area spans an impressive 450 hectares, which is larger than New York’s Central Park. What’s remarkable about Viminacium is that it is not concealed beneath a modern city unlike many other ancient sites.

Over the years, excavations have led to various intriguing discoveries. Among these are golden tiles, jade sculptures, intricate mosaics, and colorful frescos.

Additionally, weapons from ancient times and the remains of three mammoths have also been uncovered, providing a fascinating glimpse into the history and life of this ancient Roman settlement.

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