Living Danube Limes Valorising cultural heritage and fostering sustainable tourism by LIVING the common heritage on the DANUBE LIMES as basis for a Cultural Route

Logbook of Shipbuilding

Reconstruction of a late Roman Danube ship

Based on the remains of Roman ship wrecks discovered in Mainz, our partner Friedrich-Alexander University reconstructs a late Roman Danube ship from the 4th century CE. Follow the progress in detail!



1 The felling of the oaks


The hull of the Danuvina Alacris requires 18 oak trunks, some of which are 20 metres long. The oaks were felled in the week from 9 to 14 November 2020, with the participation of local television stations.

Only in the autumn, preferably in winter, when the trunks are maximally sapped, the oak may be felled. This is of crucial importance for subsequent drying. Due to continuous planks, some of the oaks had to be over 20 metres long. In addition, we have selected about 60 pieces of krummholz (oak), which are used, for example, for the stern frame. Roman methods were also used for the sawing and moving of the wood. The next step is to transport the solid oak trunks to the building site. Considering the length and weight (approx. 1t/m³) this is a great challenge.

Photo by: Mathias Orgeldinger


2 Week from 15 to 20 November


After felling with a press date on 9.11., further (initially up to 12 trunks) oaks were felled. On several dates since then, on 14.11. in a Roman way, we have been out in the forest and sawed logs.

First we sawed the logs ourselves, later together with the boat builder, who picked out the most important big branches and trunks. In the end we came up with about 70 knee timbers.

At the same time, we continued to plane oars and made progress in terms of line planing.

Photo by:  Alexander Hilverda


3 The templates (malls) are ready!


Many things happen at the same time. The malls for the boat building are ready, so are the felled oaks for the transport to the Altmühlsee, study seminars are in progress.

All 15 oaks have been felled and are waiting for their transport. They are at least 50 cm wide and almost all 20 m long. In addition, there are various types of krummholz. The logs are to be processed into planks at Altmühlsee, where the boat building will also take place, which is a challenge due to the length of 19.3 m. The 18 malls (templates) are built. Also the lofting is ready: Clean work of the boat builder. Meanwhile the oars for the Danuvina Alacris and the F.A.N., an imperial patrol boat, are being built: 49 x 4.10 m oars and 42 x 4.70 or 4.40 m oars are pre-cut or even already finished and painted. We still have beams for three more 4.40/4.70 oars.

In the meantime the student seminars have started where shields are being reconstructed and built. So far 4 oval shields have been produced. Our reconstruction model is based on a combination of two different shield types, in line with our aim to cover a timeframe between 250 and 400 AD. We decided to use an oval shape based on the Dura Europos finds in Syria, mixed with a construction of little boards which is passed down through three shields which are now part of a private art collection dating from the late 4rd until early 5th cen. Of course we also had the technical skills of our students in mind, but we think that such a construction is also possible based on the few finds we have. We are very enthusiastic about the result, as it is the first time that our students have produced such not easy to build shields. Furthermore were able to test birch against poplar – both documented in Dura Europos and on the 3 fragmented shields from the private art collection – and decided to use poplar (easier to bend).

Photo by: Margit Schedel


4 The transport of the oaks


At the beginning of December, another important hurdle was taken: the transport of the 15 felled oaks from the Sebald Reichswald to the building site at the Altmühlsee, 80 km away.

It was no easy undertaking when the oak trunks, each about 21 m long, had to be hoisted onto the transporter in adverse weather conditions and then transported to the Altmühlsee. Also because of the enormous weight: one cubic metre of oak weighs about 1.3 tonnes.

But in the end we were successful. But there are still about 50 krummholz to be transported.

Photo by: Mathias Orgeldinger


5 Workshop: From archaeological finds to reconstruction


The first workshop on traditional craftsmanship was held on 14 December 2020 – progress with the double hall at the construction side

On 14 December the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, hosted the first workshop connected to the reconstruction of the 4th century lusoria. Due to COVID-19, it had to take place online via Zoom, but was still a success. Around 50 people took part, including project partners, experts and the general public. Simultaneous translation into German was provided. Speakers were Prof Dr Boris Dreyer (Erlangen), Dr Ronald Bockius (Mainz) and Dr Timm Weski (Munich). They talked about the reconstruction according to the inventory in Mainz and with the help of parallel finds as well as about the status of the reconstruction of the Danuvina Alacris and the classification in the overall project.The evaluations after the workshop show that the audience was very satisfied.

For the Danuvina Alacris, further oars were planed and cut in Arberg.

The building permit for the double hall in Schlungenhof came through successfully. Tenders to companies have already started, offers have been received.

Photo by: Alexander Hilverda


6 Latticing of the oak trunks


In Schlungenhof, the oak logs and oak krummholtz transported there before Christmas were latticed. A team of students, boat builders, professional sawyers and - as far as allowed by Covid 19 conditions - volunteers sawed the oak logs according to the specifications. Exemplary Roman frame saws were also used. However, most of it was sawn after initial difficulties with the modern mobile frame saw, which came specially from Bremen and can saw excess lengths (up to about 19.30 m). These sawn laths were well layered and secured so that they can dry well.

Photo by: Boris Dreyer

Programme co-funded by European Union funds (ERDF, IPA, ENI)