Archaeologists in Serbia have made an exciting discovery in an opencast coal quarry – the remains of an ancient Roman ship. The ship was uncovered by miners at the Drmno mine, prompting experts from a nearby former Roman settlement called Viminacium to rush to preserve the wooden skeleton. This is the second such discovery in the area since 2020.
The ship is believed to have been part of a river fleet that served the Roman city of Viminacium, which was a bustling and highly-developed metropolis with a population of 45,000 people. The city boasted a hippodrome, fortifications, a forum, a palace, temples, an amphitheater, aqueducts, baths, and workshops.
Lead archaeologist Miomir Korac stated that previous findings suggest the ship may date back as far as the 3rd or 4th century AD when Viminacium was the capital of the Roman province of Moesia Superior and had a port near a Danube River tributary. The exact age of the ship remains uncertain.
To prevent decay in the summer heat, the wooden remains were sprayed with water and kept under a tarpaulin. Archaeologists speculate that the two ships and three canoes uncovered in the area either sank or were abandoned at the river bank.
The plan is to display the latest discovery alongside thousands of artifacts previously unearthed from Viminacium. However, moving the 13-meter hull without damage poses a challenge. The team will work with engineers to create a special structure that can be lifted by a crane, followed by a gradual conservation process.
Excavations at Viminacium have been ongoing since 1882, but the site is vast, covering 450 hectares – larger than New York’s Central Park – and remarkably not buried under a modern city. So far, only 5% of the site has been explored. Archaeologists have uncovered various treasures, including golden tiles, jade sculptures, mosaics, frescos, weapons, and even remains of three mammoths.
This discovery adds to the rich history of the region and offers insights into the maritime activities of the Roman civilization in the area. The ongoing excavations at Viminacium hold the promise of uncovering more hidden treasures and shedding light on the vibrant life of this ancient city.