A Cache of Vintage Ships
By Andrew L. Slayman. Summoned last April to survey a construction site in Pisa, Italian archaeologist Stefano Bruni never imagined what he would find: nine well-preserved Roman ships--the largest group of ancient vessels ever discovered in a single place--and part of Pisa's classical port. Eight months of patient testing had yielded little, and construction of an office building at the San Rossore train station was proceeding. Then, in December, builders sinking a corrugated steel retaining wall to support the sides of the foundation pit realized they had bisected an ancient ship, nearly intact, its wooden frame and planks still held together by copper nails. During the next five months, eight others were found, dating between the second century B.C. and the fifth century A.D., from Pisa's florescence as a Republican naval naval base to the end of the Roman Empire. Bruni's original cores had stopped in what seemed like sterile soil three inches shy of the discovery of a lifetime.