Skip to comments.Ghost Fleet 'Shows Pisa Was An Ancient Venice'
Posted on 11/21/2003 6:44:54 PM PST by blam
Ghost fleet 'shows Pisa was an ancient Venice'
By Bruce Johnston in Rome
The chance discovery of a Roman "ghost fleet" buried in mud just outside Pisa has led experts to conclude that the city was built on a lagoon much like an early Venice.
Archaeologists believe that traces of a community dating back to a pre-Roman era, a sort of "Etruscan Venice", may lie beneath the ships.
The end of the lagoon civilisation may also offer clues to the fate of modern Venice - the waterways were silted up by violent floods over a long period.
"The situation in Venice is not just similar to that of Pisa, but is practically identical," said Prof Stefano Bruni of the University of Ferrara.
The find first came to light five years ago when a bulldozer involved in work to build railway offices beside the San Rossore station on the outskirts of Pisa came across an ancient wooden ship 30ft below ground. A large archaeological dig which was started under Prof Bruni's direction later found four ships dating from various Roman periods.
The number of vessels, which were found in remarkable condition, rose to six, then nine, and finally 21, including what experts believe may be a Roman warship. They date from 200BC-AD500.
The ships will soon be housed in a new museum in Pisa's old shipyards, Giuliano Urbani, Italy's culture minister, announced last week. "It will not just be a building," he said. "It will also be a kind of historical space which will develop in tandem with the stages of recovery and restoration of the ships."
The extraordinary finds have produced much new data about Roman shipbuilding techniques, cargoes, classical trade and naval life. Some of the ships were adapted for river and sea navigation.
Various archaeological teams are analysing material found, including navigational instruments, human remains, wicker baskets, clothing, oil lamps and scraps of leather. But equally important, the experts say, the discovery has caused the entire geography of the area, and its relationship with the rest of the Mediterranean, to be redefined.
Prof Angelo Bottini, the archeological superintendent for Tuscany, said the digs had not brought to light the existence of a mere port separated from the sea. Rather, they showed there had been a "network of river and maritime landing places, in which the sea and the rivers were in dialogue".
This network included lagoon islands and wetlands where freshwater combined with salt water. "To compare Pisa and Venice is therefore not rash," he said, "even if we must exercise caution." The discovery of the ships had also confirmed claims by ancient sources that before Pisa was a Roman city it had been Etruscan and Hellenic.
The extraordinary state of preservation of the ships was due to what Prof Bottini called the "traumatic sequence" of floods over the centuries after the 5th century AD. "It deposited sand in such a violent way that it didn't have time to oxidise the wood," he said. But while this had preserved the ships, it also meant that the wood, when exposed to the air, had to be re-hydrated to stop it falling apart. The procedure was incredibly slow.
Once the ships were discovered, experts were able to establish that there had been a lagoon system, thanks to investigative work of the terrain earlier to protect the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Prof Bruni said: "By re-examining aerial night photos taken at the time with special thermal film, we realised that the River Auser [one of Pisa's two rivers] had completely changed its course.
"We used the data to help reconstruct the landscape as it would have been in Etruscan times, and found that then there was a situation similar to Venice. Now Pisa is 10km [about six miles] from the sea. Then, it was 3.5km, and was a delta."
I have a worldwide event recorded in the tree rings at 207BC.
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Neat! One of my most favorite places in the world is a little northwest at San Remo.
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Pisa has always looked strangely flat to me. And then the Bell Tower keeling over like the ground isn't as solid as it ought to be. This article makes sense.
Leaning Tower Of Pizza
Ruskin says that is the ugliest piece of architecture in the city if not in all Italy, and not because it is leaning. If you know Ruskin's work you know why.
Etruscan Engineering and Agricultural Achievements: The Ancient City of Spina
The Mysterious Etruscans | Last modified on Tue, 17-Aug-2004 15:36:27 GMT | editors
Posted on 08/17/2004 12:05:30 PM EDT by SunkenCiv