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Roman Sites
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Roman Ship "De Meern 4" Netherlands
Friday 24 June 2005
Leidse Rijn
Roman Ship
No access, site is closed.
Roman name: -
Roman Province: Germania Inferior
Country: The Netherlands
Province: Utrecht
Nearest town: Utrecht
Nearest village: Vleuten/De Meern

Click to enlarge the map.
Map of the site (dark patch is the modern situation superimposed).


After the spectacular find of a Roman ship, dated to the late 2nd century and complete with inventory (De Meern 1) two years ago in the the building site of West-Utrecht (Leidsche Rijn), two more Roman ships were found. The first is situated about 150 metres from the site of the first (De Meern 1), which was dug up between March 3rd and June 19 th, 2003 and was subsequently transported to Lelystad. Over there it's being conserved by a specialist unit of the ROB (Dutch Archaeological Service), the NISA (Dutch Institute for Ship- and Underwater Archaeologie. The other ship was found in Woerden.

The latest ship found in Leidsche Rijn was designated on June 25 with the name 'De Meern 4'. It was found next to a quay made of oak and basalt blocks and belongs to the same type as the other ship, but it's much larger: maybe even 35 metres long! The archaeologists from made this discovery during a routine research ahead of making the site available for building as part of the large scale development of West-Utrecht (Leidsche Rijn). the ship sank in the same part of the river bed as the other ship, now with NISA in Lelystad.

De Meern 4 lies next an interesting quay which was uncovered at the same time. The ship is special for a number of reasons. Firstly becaue of the good state it is in. Secondly because of the size: 4,75 m wide and, based on the usual sizes of Roman ships, it may well have been between 30 and 35 m long. With that size, it's also one of the largest Roman ships found in The Netherlands. based on current research, it's dated to the 2nd century AD.

The ship was moored (or deliberately sunk) alongside a large quay, which was constructed of oak beams, measuring 30 cm across, behind which was a construction of oak planks. Research on this wood has already established that this wood was cut around the spring of the year 100 AD. Right next to the quay is the Roman road. The river bank between the quay and the road was paved with large basalt blocks, which were transported from the Eiffel region in Germany by ship - possibly this ship - to the region west of Utrecht. The Roman road will be shown in the pavement of the new housing estate (named 'De Balije').

The visit

I was invited by Ros Ereira from Time Team, after helping out at the filming at the watchtower, I decided to take her up on her offer. It was a very hot Friday morning, and filming was still taking place, this being the third day and last day of Tome team's presence here. I managed to find the site without fail, a small miracle because I was aided aided by nothing more than a sense of direction and a vague memory of where the last boat was situated. Between that visit and today, hundreds of houses had been built (or rather, they will be) and the site was unrecognisable but for an old farm house.

The Pit - not a good place to be in; sun, 30-degrees heat, dust and mud up to your elbows..
The Pit - not a good place to be in; sun, 30-degrees heat, dust and mud up to your elbows..
An enlarged picture of the 'De Meern 4' Roman ship, next to the quay (botom)of the picture.
An enlarged picture of the 'De Meern 4' Roman ship, next to the quay (botom)of the picture.
Filming the dig.
Filming the dig.
Phil Harding (with hat).
Phil Harding (with hat).

This is where the Time Team crew had settled, interviewing experts in the shade of a big tree, while on the other side of the hedge, bordering a freshly completed row of houses, was the pit with the ship. or rather, part of the ship, because most of it was (and probably will remain to be) covered by metres of earth. This was the place to be, and then again it was not! On the one hand you could see the beams of a ship, nearly 20 centuries old, just out of reach but clearly visible, being discussed by a small crowd of experts. On the other hand though it was already more than 30 degrees (in fact the meteorological service had confirmed an official heatwave just 30 minutes earlier), with a moist atmosphere, dusty on the surface and mud clinging to all parts of the archaeologists' expert bodies..

The digger scrapes away a bit more earth..
The digger scrapes away a bit more earth.
Action! Tony questions the experts about the dating of the ship.
Action! Tony questions the experts about the dating of the ship.
Well, actually, it's quite nice and cool working in the shade..
Well, actually, it's quite nice and cool working in the shade..

But no doubt, all this was sweetened by the presence of Time Team, who had not only brought a budget making the dig possible, but also a streak of fine weather (OK, a heatwave!) that made for some fine filming days. I guess everybody was very happy and the atmosphere was very relaxed. After gazing at the dig and the filming for about an hour, it was time for me to say my farewells, earn a word of thanks and head home to some shade and cooling drinks.

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