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Anaxum Project

A new shipwreck of XI AD from Stella river

Remains of a Medieval wooden hull were exposed in September 2012 near the town of Precenicco (Friuli Venezia Giulia – Italy), during works of regularization of the river banks, carried out for the association “Consorzio di Bonifica Bassa Friulana.”  The preventive archaeological  investigation was executed  by the firm ArcheoLab.

The first step taken by the Archaeological Office (Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici del Friuli Venezia Giulia), was to define the age of the wreck, responsibility given to the archeologist official Marta Novello. The results of the C14 analysis made on selected wooden samples, dated the shipwreck to the 11th century. This is a very important discovery, especially for the discipline of naval archaeology, because it is an unicum, both for Italy and the international archaeological panorama. The study of the wreck has been entrusted to naval archeologist Massimo Capulli, professor at the University of Udine and coordinator of the Anaxum Project, which will include this study.

Thanking to the geomorphological and sedimentological analysis of the site made by Alessandro Fontana, geologist of the Geological Science Department of the University of Padua, it was possible to reconstruct the ancient river bank: with a configuration similar to present days, its flood area was 10 mt. wider; at this point it is not known whether the vessel was covered but the natural evolution of the river, resulted from anthropic causes. The perimeter of the wreck suggests that the preserved remains are 2 mt. wide and 10 mt. long. The information available suggests that the ship was abandoned.

This find reinforces  the historical hypothesis that the Stella river was a dynamic trade route, both in Roman and Medieval times, as suggested by the sinopia found in a little church in Chiarmacis dedicated to Saint Andrew, located on the Stella river: it represents a warship, recognizable by both wind- and human propulsion, testified by the presence of two masts and the oars. At the stern two rudders can be observed, as it was typical in the medieval period. This vessel could be linked to the presence of the knights of the Teutonic Order in the area: one of their most important communities was located in Precenicco, and it organized part of the maritime traffic to the Holy Land.