Cais do Sodré Ship

Lisbon, Portugal

Citation information: Filipe Castro, "The Cais do Sodré Ship",, last updated in February 2008.

This derelict was found in 1995 on the northern bank of the Tagus River, in Lisbon, during the works for the construction of a subway line that was subsequently named "Caravela," and has been dated by radiocarbon to the late 15th or early 16th century.


The Cais do Sodré ship was exposed in 1995, during the excavation works for the construction of a subway station at Cais do Sodré Square in Lisbon, Portugal.

While digging in a zone that was once Lisbon's shoreline, the contractor found the remains of a wooden hull at the depth between 5 and 6.5 m.  Presumably a derelict, this hull was preserved to the turn of the bilge along 24 m of flat keel.  The walls of the subway hall had cut the stem and sternposts, and with the exception of part of a whipstaff no loose artifacts were found in any of the layers above and below the ship remains.  Two wooden samples were taken for radiocarbon dating and yielded dates around the end of the 15th century.

To my knowledge these dates have not been double checked.

The ship remains were recorded in situ by a team of archaeologists under the direction of Paulo Jorge Rodrigues, an archaeologist hired by IPPAR (Instituto Português do Património Arquitectónico e Arqueológico), which is now called IGESPAR.

In spite the interest and care of the contractor building this subway line, a number of problems plagued this project, and the timbers were left to dry in a state warehouse. The study of the timbers started in 2000, under the direction of Paulo Jorge Rodrigues, and the then Centro Nacional de Arqueologia Náutica e Subaquática, created in 1997 and shut down in 2007.

Veiw of the site in 1995 (Photo: Filipe Castro)

In the summer of 2001 the timber recording was taken by a team from the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University, under the direction of Paulo Rodrigues, and this ship was the subject of his Thèse de Doctorat at the Université de Sorbone Paris 1 under the advisory of Dr. Eric Rieth.

The ship remains encompassed a keel, keelson, deadwood, frames, four stringers, one breast hook, one orlop beam, one stanchion, planking and ceiling, as well as some smaller timbers.  These timbers were cut out of several different species of wood, as shown on Table I below.  Very interesting were the already mentioned remains of a whipstaff found at the stern.

Veiw of the site in 1995 (Photo: Filipe Castro)

In 2002 another team from Texas A&M University helped with the recording of the floor timbers.



2001 and 2002 Texas A&M Field Seasons







Team, Lodging, and Working Schedule


Equipment, Duration of the Work and Work Assigned


Conclusions and Acknowledgements

Site plan

Hull plan

Research Model

Virtual Model





Ship Lab Report 4 - 2002 Field School (± 5 Mb)

Rodrigues, P., Alves, F., Rieth, E., Castro, L.F.V., "L'épave dun navire de la moitié du XV.ème siècle / début du XVI.ème, trouvée au Cais do Sodré (Lisbonne). Note Préliminaire", in Alves, Francisco, ed., Proceedings of the International Symposium 'Archaeology of Medieval and Modern Ships of Iberian-Atlantic Tradition', Lisbon, 1998. Lisbon: IPA, 2001: 347-380.

Rodrigues, Paulo J. P., Relatório Preliminar dos trabalhos de desobstrução e registo arqueográfico dos restos do navio encontrado no Cais do Sodré, nas obras do Metropolitano de Lisboa, Lisboa: I.P.P.A.R., 1995.

Rodrigues, Paulo J. P., Étude de la charpente transversale du navire de Cais do Sodré de la 2ème moitié du XVe siècle/début du XVIe, Thèse de Maîtrise, Université de Paris I - Sorbonne, 2002.