Roman Ship, c.150 AD

The Museum owns parts of the oldest seagoing sailing ship ever found in northern Europe. This is also the earliest example of a Romano-Celtic shipbuilding tradition that extended from the Danube in the east to France and Britain in the west. Vessels of this type were suited to the tidal coasts of northern Europe, for they had flat bottoms so that cargoes could by loaded and unloaded on a beach at low tide.

Ships like these, part of the Classis Britannica (British Fleet) of the Roman Imperial Navy, were probably used to transport iron from the Hastings area and the Weald inland, which was an important source of the metal in Roman times (43 – 400 AD). There was a smelting works (with a bath house) at nearby Beauport Park, St Leonards-on-Sea. By the fourth century, the Roman navy had changed its activities because the coast was being attacked by barbarian raiders, and squadrons of light warships were probably based in coastal fortifications at Pevensey and Dover, and elsewhere.


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