Naves Oraria - Coastal and River Craft





General Description

There were many types of coastal and river craft, all as expected were smaller than seagoing vessels.

The remains of two craft have been found in the Thames.

One at New Guys House, Bermondsey in 1959, clinker built, built about the end of the second century, 60ft long 14ft wide, flat bottomed and able to rest onshore without damage. Probably used to transfer cargo to/from the shore where larger sea going craft could not tie up at quayside. It would also move cargo to/from higher reaches of the river. 

A second was found at Blackfriars in 1962, built in the second century, of carvel construction, 60ft long, 22ft wide, with a cargo capacity of 60 tons, flat bottomed and with a single mast well forward. The hull planks were riddled with holes made by the Teredo saltwater wood-boring worm. This showed it was used for coastal as well as river work .

Several river craft have also been found in 1982 at Mainz, a double legionary base on the  upper Rhine. Classified as Mainz Type A, they were long narrow, open and powered by both oars and sail. About 69ft long, 9ft wide, a draught of 18 inches and a mast set well forward. Carvel built but only roughly joined and caulked with tar. It would be cheap to build, fast and manoeuvrable. Suited for scouting, patrol and interception work.  Dendrochronology showed two were built in 375 or 376 AD, a third was repaired in 386AD and again 394AD. Operated by the Classis Germanica based at Cologne. The Mainz legionary fortress was abandoned in 406 AD.

The impression is that coastal craft used in northern Europe was more strongly built than similar craft used in the Mediterranean and constructed of Oak which would have been plentiful. 

Classis Britannica would have operated these types of craft in support of the land based legions.



This page last edited - 20 July, 2012.

Copyright Ian M King, except where otherwise indicated.