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Archaeologists uncover huge 2nd century Roman shipyard in Italy

September 23, 2011 - Washington

Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of a large Roman shipyard while leading an international excavation of Portus - the ancient port of the city.

University of Southampton and British School at Rome (BSR) archaeologists, working with the Italian Archaeological Superintendancy of Rome, have uncovered the remains of a massive building close to the distinctive hexagonal basin or 'harbour', at the centre of the port complex.

"At first we thought this large rectangular building was used as a warehouse, but our latest excavation has uncovered evidence that there may have been another, earlier use, connected to the building and maintenance of ships," said University of Southampton Professor and Portus Project Director Simon Keay.

"Few Roman Imperial shipyards have been discovered and, if our identification is correct, this would be the largest of its kind in Italy or the Mediterranean," he added.

The building the team has unveiled is believed to date from the 2nd century AD.

It is thought to have stood 145 metres long and 60 metres wide, with its roof up to 15 metres high at some places. Large brick-faced concrete piers or pillars, almost three metres wide supported at least eight parallel bays with wooden roofs.

The shipyard is said be a part of a key complex where an imperial official was charged with coordinating the movement of ships and cargoes within the port.


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