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A Roman Wreck at Caesarea Maritima, Israel: A Comparative Study of Its Hull and Equipment

Michael Andrew Fitzgerald
Dissertation: May 1995
Co-Chairs: Bass & van Doorninck
Nautical Archaeology Program

The hull remains and equipment of a heavy Roman merchant ship are described and illustrated, with particular attention given to construction details and features. Succeeding chapters comprise individual treatments of each construction detail of the hull and equipment, including relevant ancient literary and pictorial evidence and catalogs of all accessible comparative archaeological data. Each chapter concludes with a discussion of the feature with regard to evident technological patterns or trends and their implications for the interpretation of the Ceasarea hull. The final chapters are devoted to the reconstruction, dating, and analysis of the ship in its historical, archaeological, and technological contexts. The comparative studies reveal that the ship was probably quite flat-bottomed, measured some 40-45 m in length, and is one of the most heavily built Roman merchant hulls yet documented. In this perhaps unique case, hull construction and equipment details allow the dating of the ship's construction with a fair degree of confidence. The most important product of both the documentation of the Caesarea hull and its analysis with respect to the comparative corpus may be a new hypothesis regarding Graeco-Roman shipbuilding: that approaches to the construction of large ships differed fundamentally from approaches common to the building of small ships. Due to limitations inherent in the nature of mortise-and-tenon"shell-first" shipbuilding, wherein the shell is the primary structural hull component, frames were more important in large ships than they were in small ships. Therefore, knowledge accumulated through a long history of building big ships facilitated shanges to faster and more efficient methods of shipbuilding required by the deteriorating economic conditions of the later Roman and early Byzantine periods. There and other factors were part of an evolution in ship construction that resulted in "frame-first" techniques at least by the tenth or eleventh century A.C.

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