The Gulf of Kastela is a partially protected coastline near Split, Croatia. It is formed by the Marjan peninsula to the west of the city of Split, and the island of Ciovo to the south and east of the city of Trogir. Trstenik is a section of Kastel Sucurac, the eastern-most city in the gulf, near the city of Solin (ancient Salona).
Discovery of the ship
In 2004, a large dolium was discovered in 2m of water 50m from shore, which had been repurposed for storing live fish by drilling holes in it. During the recovery of the dolium in 2006, divers located a nearby amphorae field of Dressel 20 amphorae, and also identified the outline of a ship intentionally scuttled alongside a Roman wooden sea wall by filling it with rocks. An abbreviated three-week excavation season in 2012 verified the existence of the ship, and cleared the rocks from the western end of the wreck. The uncovered section was documented, then covered with geotextile to preserve in situ.
An international team of student archaeologists, led by Dr. Irena Radic-Rossi of the University of Zadar, Croatia, and Dave Ruff, PhD student at Texas A&M University, fully excavated the ship from April 13th through May 10th. The weather cooperated, with 23 diving days conducted, and only one day of diving cancelled due to high winds. The team logged 267 dives, executing 624 hours of bottom time. This year’s work uncovered the previously excavated section, and also completed excavation of the rest of the ship.
The four weeks of the excavation were consumed by removal of stones and sediment from the wreck, documentation of the ship’s construction, photogrammetry of the site, and extensive sampling of the ship and overall site. As the wood became visible, the orientation of the ship was confirmed to be bow to the east. The ship clearly had either a strong mast step or a keelson at one time, based on notches on selected frames to support the load, but that piece had been removed prior to scuttling.
Built shell first, with mortise and tenon plank joinery and frames attached to the shell by wooden pegs driven from outside-in, the ship was clearly well-used before it was scuttled; several repaired planks were noted, including repair tenons coated with pitch in some locations. The ship rests on its keel, and was scuttled in an east-west orientation, which was very fortuitous for future reconstruction. The port side, which was against the sea wall, was perfectly preserved to the turn of the bilge and to the depth of the ship to the first wale. The starboard side cracked twice due to the weight of the stones in the ship, which allowed a greater number of planks to be preserved under the weight of the stones and sediment that covered the wreck.
Because the ship was scuttled, there were not high expectations for artifact recovery. However, an oil lamp in perfect condition was found between two frames, and two Roman coins were also recovered from the ship. Numerous pieces of broken ceramics were recovered, along with animal bone, nut shells, and glass—over 230 artifacts were cataloged and photographed.
At the completion of the excavation, the ship was re-covered with geotextile, and could be a candidate for additional research. Based on photogrammetry, Dave Ruff will reconstruct the ship as part of his degree completion program. The Trstenik site is part of the AdriaS project, a four year international project sponsored by the Croatian Science Foundation. The Trstenik site as well as other Roman sites around the Bay of Kastela will be revisited in future years to continue overall site analysis.
This excavation was funded by the 2015 Claude Duthuit Grant from the Institute of Nautical Archaeology. Additional support was provided by the University of Zadar and the Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation.