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Wood analysis of the Roman shipwrecks of Naples

The Roman carpenters knew very well the technological and structural properties of the various timbers

One of the three Roman shipwrecks (Photo courtesy of Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli).
Wooden elements from three Roman shipwrecks (Napoli A and Napoli C, 1st cent. AD; Napoli B, 2nd century AD) recovered in the infilling of the Neapolis harbour (Naples, southern Italy) were fully analysed by our team. The extensive wood analysis suggested a very attentive selection of species related both to wood technological properties and to the structural uses.

Pollen data obtained from the coeval sedimentary layers revealed that all the timber taxa (apart from Picea/Larix) were present in the surroundings of the study area. The identified forest taxa are very common in the Mediterranean basin and thus the pollen-wood comparison was not able to define the location of the shipyards.

Broad comparison with western Mediterranean wrecks evidenced the peculiarity of the Neapolis ships where the systematic use of both walnut (Juglans regia) and cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) was highlighted. Archaeological, biogeographical and archaeobotanical considerations suggest the local provenance of the ship C and constrain the possible origin area of both the ship Napoli A and Napoli B to central-southern Tyrrhenian coasts.

 

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Related papers

Allevato, E., Russo Ermolli, E., Boetto, G., & Di Pasquale, G. (2010). Pollen-wood analysis at the Neapolis harbour site (1st–3rd century AD, southern Italy) and its archaeobotanical implications. Journal of Archaeological Science, 37(9), 2365–2375. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2010.04.010
Mercuri, A. M., Allevato, E., Arobba, D., Bandini Mazzanti, M., Bosi, G., Caramiello, R., … Rinaldi, R. (2014). Pollen and macroremains from Holocene archaeological sites: A dataset for the understanding of the bio-cultural diversity of the Italian landscape. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology. doi:10.1016/j.revpalbo.2014.05.010