A Problem in Naval Archaeology

By G.B. Rubin de Cervin, published November 1955


During excavations in Genoa harbour in 1597 the bronze cast-head of a boar was hand dredged to the surface. Historians classified the relic as being the rostrum of a Roman galley. In 1833 it was removed to the ‘Armeria Reale’ of Turin and was labelled as a Roman xystus. Archaeologists seemed to have always overlooked its naval importance. Jal suggests it may have been used as a battering ram, while others, a heavy beam hoisted to the yardarm and allowed to swing as a weapon. Fragments of Roman sculpture unearthed in 1889 shows part of the bow of a ship with the familiar boar’s head. It is believed that it belonged to a fountain set in the gardens of Nero’s huge Domus Aurea.

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Filed under: Antiquity | Other (Early Modern) | Mediterranean | Other (Nineteenth C) | Other (Eighteenth C) | Shipwrecks
Subjects include: Archaeology | Battles & Tactics | Harbours & Dockyards | Historic Vessels, Museums & Restoration | Ship Models & Figureheads | Shipbuilding & Design | Weapons

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