Coal mine in Serbia gives up new Roman treasure
When the sun sunk over a massive coal mine in eastern Serbia at the beginning of this months, a small crane lightened the front half of a Roman ship from the steep side of the pit.
An excavator digging through the rich soil with coal had taken out muddy wood a few weeks before, but the rescue had to wait due to coronaviral constraints.
The ship belonged to Viminacium, a sprawling Roman city with a hippodrome of 45,000 citizens, fortifications, a forum, palace, temples, amphitheatre, aqueducts, baths and workshops.
The vessel dated back to the 3rd century A.D. when Viminacium was the capital of the Roman province of Moesia Superior, next to a tributary of the Danube river, the leading archeologist, Miomir Korac, said.
“A Roman (river) fleet was based here to defend this region from barbarian invasions,” he told Reuters. “Such findings of Roman ships are really rare, especially in such a good condition where one could see how the boat was built.” The ship originally measured 19 meters. It had a flat bottom, six pairs of oars and fittings for a triangular sail.
The nine-metre front section had thick wooden sides and was discovered along with the remains of two smaller boats.
It will eventually go on display with some of tens of thousands of other artefacts unearthed from the site near the town of Kostolac, some 70 km (45 miles) east of Belgrade.
They include golden tiles, jade sculptures, mosaics and frescos, along with 14,000 tombs and the remains of three mammoths. The archaeologists are now working on what they believe to be the headquarters of a Roman general.
Excavations of Viminacium have been going on since 1882, but the archaeologists estimate that they have only covered 4% of the site, which they say is 450 hectares — bigger than New York’s Central Park — and rare in not being buried under a modern city.