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Roman barge comes up for air after 2,000 years

Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - 02:16

Oct. 18 - Archaeologists have recovered the final piece of a ship that sank in the river Rhone in France more than two millennia ago, which they hope will shed light on how the Romans led the way with globalization. Stuart McDill reports.

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More than two thousand years after it sank, divers prepare a Roman boat for its return to the surface. Why the vessel sank in the River Rhone in the south of France is still a mystery but such a well preserved specimen should reveal much about its history, according to one of the lead archaeologists on the project, Sabrina Marlier. (SOUNDBITE)(French) SABRINA MARLIER, ARLES MUSEUM OF ANTIQUITY SAYING: "It's a boat that was shipwrecked unexpectedly, and so all its equipment was preserved on board. That is to say, we found a kitchen at the back of the boat, with plates and crockery, complete with a ceramic oven used by the sailors. We even found utensils." Raising the vessel has taken seven years to plan. Despite being in remarkable condition when it was discovered, it was not strong enough to be raised in one piece so it was cut into 10 segments - painstaking work, which will take years to reverse with the vessels' reassembly and restoration, says archaeologist Sandra Grek. (SOUNDBITE)(French) SANDRA GREK, ARCHAEOLOGIST SAYING: "We have to work slowly, because the wood is extremely fragile, so we can't push it, because it's held together with nails, we have to make sure we don't let the pieces come apart from one other." The vessel was 31 metres long and 3 metres wide and was found intact from rudder to mast - the only Roman merchant ship of its size in such a condition. Artefacts found on board have given historians a new insight into international trade within the Roman empire, according to the director of the museum in Arles, Claude Sinttes. (SOUNDBITE)(French) CLAUDE SINTTES, ARLES MUSEUM OF ANTIQUITY SAYING: "You have to remember that in ancient times there was one sort of globalisation that existed even before mail and other forms of exchange happened on a global level. People didn't hesitate to import ceramics that cost dozens of (the equivalent of) euros, from the other side of the Mediterranean." The boat will be rebuilt in a laboratory before being returned to Arles. There, it will be reassembled and put on display - nine million Euros and 2000 years after it sank. Stuart McDIll, Reuters

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Roman barge comes up for air after 2,000 years

Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - 02:16

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