Roman ship found at Ostia
'It gives you goose bumps,' says culture minister03 May, 15:23
(ANSA) - Rome - An ancient ship has emerged from the ground at the Imperial Roman port of Ostia in a find Culture Minister Giancarlo Galan said "gives you goose bumps".
An 11-metre section of one of the ship's sides has so far been discovered, archaeologists said.
They and Galan said the discovery would make experts think anew about the exact location of the port where the Roman empire's biggest fleet was stationed and through which goods travelled to and from the imperial capital.
"This great result tells us a lot of things about the ancient coastline and what was happening about 2,000 years ago," said Galan, who rushed down to the site after the find was made public.
Archaeologists said they were expecting to find something in the area, where a major road bridge is being rebuilt, and had launched a programme of so-called 'preventive archaeology'.
Site director Paola Germoni stressed that this type of work "enables us to combine the demands of conservation of ancient artefacts with the needs of the general public".
She said the discovery "would plausibly move back the ancient coast line some four kilometres from where it is now".
Silt and river movements have pushed back the area of the once-bustling port, which is now a major archeological site called Ostia Antica, the best-preserved ancient Roman town outside Pompeii.
Although it attracts far fewer visitors than Pompeii, many enthusiasts say it offers a similar thrill and feel of ancient life.
Anna Maria Moretti, archaeological superintendent for Rome and Ostia Antica, said "the find is a novelty because at that depth, about four metres below the topsoil, we have never found a ship, only layers (of buildings) and one single structure".
"At the moment we only have a sizeable chunk of one side (of the ship), neither the poop or stern".
She also said there were "remains of ropes and cables" in the ship.
"Restoring the vessel will be an extremely delicate operation," Moretti went on. "We're keeping it constantly covered in water so that the wood doesn't dry out.
"The wreck must be treated with highly sophisticated preservation techniques," Moretti said.
Several Roman ships were found during the construction of the nearby Fiumicino Airport in the 1950s and are now housed in a museum at Ostia Antica.
Ancient Roman Ostia, at the since-moved mouth of the River Tiber, was built into a massive complex under the Emperor Claudius and given the name Portus, meaning port.
It was expanded under successive emperors such as Trajan and Hadrian and served as a base for many of the empire's greatest expeditions.
Ostia was also the depot channelling the vast wealth, grain and other supplies needed to feed the appetites of the imperial city.