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Three Well-Preserved Ancient Boats Unearthed in Serbia

Monday, April 13, 2020

Serbia BoatKOSTOLAC, SERBIA—Ars Technica reports that coal miners in eastern Serbia discovered three boats in what may have been a branch of the Danube River some 1,300 years ago. The site where the vessels were uncovered is near the ancient Roman city of Viminacium, which fell to invaders around A.D. 600. Archaeologist Miomir Korac of the Viminacium Science Project said that the largest of the three boats, which was seriously damaged by the miners’ equipment, had a flat bottom, a single deck, at least six pairs of oars, fittings for a triangular sail, and measured about 49 feet long. Korac thinks it dates to the Roman period, since it was built with Roman techniques, but those methods of construction may have still been in use during the Byzantine and medieval periods, he explained. The two smaller boats were carved from single tree trunks, and are thought to have been made by Slavic peoples for crossing the river. No signs of battle damage have been found on the boats, and no artifacts were left behind by the crews. Korac suggests the ship could have been abandoned and scuttled during the invasion to keep it out of enemy hands. Radiocarbon dates from the site could help answer some of these questions, he added. To read about the first archaeological example of a type of Egyptian cargo ship described by the fifth-century B.C. Greek historian Herodotus, go to "As Told by Herodotus."

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