Thursday, August 25, 2005


The Roman Shipwrecks Project


University of Southampton
August 2005

The Roman Shipwrecks Project was set up in 2000 to investigate the existence of Roman wrecks in the waters surrounding the British Isles. This project continues research begun in 1998, with funding from the Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England (RCHME)’s National Monuments Record. To date, not a single Roman ship or cargo has been identified around Britain’s coasts. This is somewhat surprising considering the hundreds, if not thousands, of ships that must have sunk around Britain in Roman times. So far the only Roman ships discovered in the British Isles have been three abandoned hulks found in London (Marsden 1997), a riverboat from Wales (Nayling et al. 1994), another from Ireland, and the hull of a Roman ship destroyed by fire in St Peter Port harbour, Guernsey (Rule & Monaghan 1993).
Evidence that Roman wrecks do in fact exist in British waters comes in the form of considerable quantities of continental pottery recovered in the nets of fishermen working in inshore waters although the sources of this material remain unidentified.

This project intends to conduct detailed surveys of three areas from which Roman material has been recovered in order to locate the sources. The surveys will combine the latest high-resolution marine geophysical survey techniques with diver surveys. The areas identified include an area off the North Kent coast at Herne Bay known as Pudding Pan or Pan Sand, the approaches to St Peter Port harbour in Guernsey, and an additional area yet to be chosen from the results of a survey of Roman material recovered by fishermen.

Current work is focussed on Pudding Pan/Pan Sands. [Link to Report on work from 1998 to 2001]

The Roman Ship Wreck Project is jointly run by the British Museum and the Centre for Maritime Archaeology, University of Southampton. The principal investigators are: JD Hill (British Museum), Michael Walsh, Justin Dix, and Jon Adams (University of Southampton) Funding has been kindly provided by The British Museum, The Townley Group, The Roman Research Trust and English Heritage. The University of Southampton funds Michael Walsh’s doctoral research.


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