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Roman Merchant Vessel by overdale - 1st Century AD & Shipwreck Artifact

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I have been the proud possessor of a large chunk of an ancient Roman Amphora. The storage jars the Romans used to transport everything from wine to fish sauce and olive oil to the four corners of their vast empire. It came to me quite a few  years ago at the very dawn of ebay when it really was just an online flea market and not the commercial juggernaut it is today.


A guy in Ohio was clearing out his garage and put it on line along with a lot of other 'junk'. I bought it for the princely sum of 25 bucks, not knowing if it was genuine or not but I just liked it. I asked him where he got it and he told me he was a retired mailman and a little old french lady on his route had left a box of junk out for the garbage collection and the amphora piece was inside. He asked her if he could have it for his fish tank and she told him to take it. She also told him that it was found by her brother in the 50's. He was a diver in the French navy and found the amphora on the mediterranean sea bed during an exercise and took it for a souvenir for her. The mailman took it home, dropped it into his fish tank where it promptly killed his entire collection of marine fish!  He had it lying in his garage ever since.


I have a collection of genuine shipwreck artifacts and I thought that it would still look good even if it was a fake.


The package arrived and judging by the extensive marine growth encrusting it, I was fairly sure it was real. To be certain, I took it to a museum marine archaeologist client I had worked with in the past and after consulting a catalog of amphora types and styles, he certified it was 2nd century Roman.


When I am not working on other people's projects, I build model ships to display with an artifact from the wreck of that ship and the amphora was next on my list.






You scan see from the photos where the line of sea growth stops where a section was buried in the sand.


Here is a photo of one in situ. Apparently it is a 'Gallic' pattern from Gaul, modern day France which would fit with the circumstances of it's history.




There are not too many things known about the thousands of Roman merchant vessels plying the coasts of the empire. Their lines and content went largely unrecorded except for what can be supposed from their remains.  My research brought me to a set of drawings made by an Italian amateur marine archaeological society and a couple of other sources which gave me enough for an attempt at a small coastal vessel by not building from one source, but taking information from all the sources and combining it.






I think this is the most likely impression and based most of my model on it.



Edited by overdale
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On to the water base.  A simple masonite box was made with the wave pattern cut into all four sides. 




The box was filled with urethane foam.. Then carved to follow the wave lines.






A hole cut out for the hull.




The waves were covered in spackle and smoothed. They will eventually be covered in glass fiber.












The rudder oar posts were added and the tile roof test fitted.



Edited by overdale
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Here are images of the 7th century Yassi Ada ship





and the early 11th century Serc,e Limani ship









and 3d image. Some things just don't change all that much.


It's interesting that both ships of which we have the lines have very flat bottoms and an almost rectangular cross-section. Good for carrying cargo, maybe not so good for sailing.



Edited by Louie da fly
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As an alternative to the tiled roof, I added a curved wooden roof that would have been covered in tar to waterproof it like below the waterline. Also added the hatch covers.The whole thing will of course be weathered so the colors won't be so strong when finished.




Edited by overdale
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This painting reflects a Roman "Port Fluvial", which means a harbor located on a large river such as the Rhone in France.

There are some huge underwater discoveries that were made recently in the Rhone river around Avignon or Valence (I cannot remember exactly) and they recovered from the bottom of the river, lots of Roman artifacts. A museum was opened for that matter.


Technically, we would not have these big waves on a river, but I like your implementation much better. It gives a dynamic dimension to your model and diorama.



Edited by yvesvidal
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"Technically, we would not have these big waves on a river"






The painting is indeed of a river port Yves, but I am not intending to show the ship on the river as my amphora was found in the sea. I merely took the details of the ship from the painting. These were also seagoing/coastal vessels as shown in Steven's photo taken from a Roman sarcophagus. As you can see, the waves there contain dolphins and are considerably larger than even those on my model. :) 



Edited by overdale
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Hi Dan,


Have you seen Glenn's Serce Limani model here? Such similarities in the lines of the ships, and something like 9 centuries apart.


Yes Steven I have seen it.  Fascinating to compare the Limani model with the photo Druxey posted earlier in this thread of the contemporary Maltese fishing vessel.

The similarities there are remarkable for being over a thousand years apart.


I'm currently working on the masts. Should have some more photos shortly.




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  • 2 weeks later...

Temporarily added the mast and bowsprit. Fitted framing on the rudder guards.  Also fitted the shroud rails. Will give everything a coat of acrylic varnish shortly and then add the weathering 'wash'. Then paint all the rails etc. black.




Edited by overdale
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  • 10 months later...
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