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The projects presented below are supported by Dr. and Mrs. Peter Amaral and ProMARE.



Group for the Study of Italian Seafaring

After the collapse of the Roman Empire and following the barbaric invasions the political unity of the Italian Peninsula was fragmented and reunification was not achieved until 1870, after the Third Civil War and the conquest of Rome. In this context the study of Italian Seafaring during the Middle Ages and the following periods must therefore be carried out having in mind a complex and contingent historical reality, in which the local shipbuilding traditions were enriched by external influences, such as Arab and Byzantine, originating a diversity of different cultural combinations in each geographical area.

In fact, as Braudel has pointed out, Italy has always been the middle axis of the Mediterranean, and always divided between an Italy that is turned to the West, and another that looks into de Levant.

Sandro Botticelli - The punishment of Korah, Sistine Chapel

With the advent of the 12th century the Italian Peninsula witnessed a phenomenon diverse and not simultaneous: its maritime cities developed autonomously and expanded their interests throughout the Mediterranean and even outside it.

The objective of this group is the study of the Italian ships and the contribution that its shipwrights brought to the development of shipbuilding. 

Mauro Bondioli

Dopo il collasso dell'impero romano e le alterne invasioni barbare, l'unità politica e culturale della penisola italiana si frammentò per ricomporsi solo nel 1870, ovvero dopo la Terza Guerra di Indipendenza e la presa della città di Roma. Pertanto, lo studio della storia dell'Italian seafaring durante l'età medioevale e dei periodi seguenti, deve innanzitutto tener conto di una realtà storica molto complessa e articolata, in cui l'eredità delle tradizioni locali subì dapprima una serie di influenze esterne, come quella araba e bizantina, per dar luogo successivamente a combinazioni culturali diverse per ciascuna area geografica. Infatti, come ha giustamente sottolineato Braudel, l'Italia ha da sempre costituito "l'asse mediano" del Mediterraneo " e si è sempre sdoppiata...tra un'Italia volta a Ponente e un'altra che guarda a Levante". Con la rinascita del XII secolo, un fenomeno peraltro non omogeneo e simultaneo ovunque, la civiltà marittima italiana seppe ergersi autonomamente per diffondersi in tutte le sponde del Mediterraneo ed anche oltre.

Lo scopo quindi del gruppo è studiare le navi italiane e il contributo che i suoi artefici apportarono allo sviluppo della costruzione navale.

 Mauro Bondioli

 Mediterranean Lateeners and round ships

The variety of ships and boats built around the Mediterranean basin between the Middle Ages and the early modern period is difficult to imagine. Moreover, a number of important changes have occurred in the way ships were built between the 6th and the 11th centuries, and again a number of important changes seem to have occurred in the way ships were rigged and sailed during the 14th century.

Documental, iconographical, and archaeological sources are scarce for the millennium that that followed the fall of the Roman empire, making it difficult to attempt to study these technological changes from any standpoint. At the ShipLab and SAEN we are trying to use our experience modeling and testing hull shapes and rigging arrangements to improve our understanding of these changes.

Comparative table (Tomás Vacas, SAEN)

Basing our preliminary studies on the reconstruction of a few medieval hulls, as reconstructed by the archaeologists that have studied them, we intend to use a number of technical tools to try to better understand these hull remains and their reconstructions.
We believe that the growing corpus of data available - namely considering the important troves of medieval hull remains of the last decade, in Turkey, Israel and Sardinia - will allow a better understanding of these ships' cost, capacity, minimum required crew, speed, and performance under sail.

The main advantage of computer models is that they are flexible and easy to correct in view of new data, ideas, or theories, and we believe that the sooner we start looking at them with our technical tools the better we will be prepared to analyze a larger corpus of data.

Italian Treatises on Shipbuilding

The earliest known treatises on shipbuilding were written in Italy, at the end of the Middle Ages and early Renaissance period. This fact may reflect the importance of maritime trade in the lives of Italy's rich and sophisticated republics.

In cooperation with the Centre for the Study of Digital Libraries, the ShipLab is gathering information about treatises and other documental sources on shipbuilding. Our main objectives are twofold: from the computer science viewpoint we want to develop tools that will help researches access and relate information; from the history of technology viewpoint we want to make information available. This project is titled Nautical Archaeology Digital Library.

Ships have been among the most complex artifacts produced by men al all time, and the importance of these treatises and texts on shipbuilding is paramount for a number of different disciplines, of which those with a stronger interest are nautical archaeology, naval history, history of science, history of technology, and history of ideas.

The part of the project that deals with the Italian texts is being developed by Mauro Bondioli and Lilia Campana, but counts with a large team of specialists. Our goal is to make texts otherwise difficult to access available, both on-line and through critical publications.

Jacopo Barbari, View of Venice, 1500.



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Last Updated: 10/14/08