Gela (ca. 500 BCE)

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When: Beginning of the 5th century BC.

Where: Sicily east from Gela, at a depth of 4 to 5 meters

Origin: Probably Greek

Was found by two spear fishermen in 1988, and was excavated by the Italian archaeologist Alice Freschi in only one season.1 Very little has been published about this vessel, although it obviously has much new information to provide.

Construction Features

Approximately 17 meters were preserved, including keel, 17 frames, keelson and hole. The hull is believed to have had a bluff bow and stern and flat bottom. It has been estimated that this ship could load around 20 tons of merchandise.

There is said to be a proper keelson notched over the frames. If so, this is by far the earliest keelson to be recorded.2

Keel and Keelson

The upper surface of the keel was 20 cm wide. The keelson was fragile and irregularly shaped and ended against the first floor at the bow. The upper surface of the frames over the axis was cut to match the keelson shape. Its upper surface had several carved holes. Some of these were clearly for stanchions being possible to say that there were to half decks, fore and aft. The functions of the other are not yet identified.

Frames and Futtocks

The frames had sections similar to the ones of the Bon-Porte I wreck but their molded dimensions varied between 10 and 14 cm. Notches had also been opened in the base of the frames to make space for the caulking rolls. The straight section of the central floor is 4 m before the chine. The futtocks were linked through a diagonal horizontal scarf with a tenon and mortise to assure that they keep in place. Three additional treenails were vertically placed through this joint. From the published drawing it looks like the frames were spaced between 75 as 90 cm. The frames were nailed to the planking, from the outside, with long copper spikes hat were clenched over their upper surface.


The planks were sewn with the same system used in the Bon-Porte I wreck. The triangular cavities were 1.5 cm on a side.

Mast Step

A treenail of square section was found linking keel and keelson in the zone of the mast step. The mast step was 58 cm sided and had one piece of rood in each side, 22 cm molded and with different lengths and sided dimensions (185x15x22 cm & 225x20x22 cm).


Ligature holes in the planks were plugged with dowels/pegs. The dimensions of the dowels are not referred. The pegs were prismatic, ‘few’ mm in Ø. They were spaced 18 cm. Part of the ligatures was still in place, showing a series of vegetal strings crossed in ‘x’ over a fibrous roll. Fabric was placed between the lashings and the wood.


1. Freschi, Allice, Note Technique sul relitto greco arcaico di Gela, in Atti della IV Rassegna di Archeologia Subaquea, Giardini Naxos, 1989: 201-210.

2. Richard Steffy, INA Shipdata Project, Texas A&M University.

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