The Wreck of Procchio, the Roman ship sank on Elba

Procchio Roman Ship Wreck

In 1967 a storm brought to light the wreck, in the northern part of the Island of Elba in the Gulf of Procchio (La Guardiola), the remains of a small Roman cargo ship in good condition. The presence of the wreck had long been known to the inhabitants of the area who recovered the sulfur loaves for the vineyards.

Procchio Roman Ship Wreck
Amphora found in the Procchio wreck

A few meters deep, (currently not visible because it is covered with sand) on a sandy bottom near Campo all’Aia, Gino Brambilla made the first recoveries followed by an underwater reconnaissance campaign coordinated by the Superintendency. In the reconnaissance of 1969 an exceptionally preserved hull was found for a length of about 16 meters. The ship, which was supposed to measure about twenty meters intact, was probably a small coastal transport vessel, with a single mast on which to hoist a square sail. Bricks with traces of combustion were found on the deck, in the place where the fire was lit to meet the needs of the ship. Coppi and tiles fixed with copper nails, were perhaps intended to cover the aft cabin. The hull was lined with lead plates up to the waterline at maximum load; the coating had to protect the planking from teredini (marine molluscs that gnaw the submerged wood) and with its weight contributed to stability. The construction technique was of the “load-bearing hull” type with the planking boards held together by softwood tongues, joined by pegs and fixed to the frames with large copper nails and numerous hardwood pins. The wreck, currently oriented with the prow to the north, was perhaps surprised by a storm and sank in the bay of Procchio together with its cargo between 130 and 200 AD

Statuette Dionisio and Pan found in the wreck of Procchio
Procchio Roman Ship Wreck

BOARD EQUIPMENT Among the finds to be attributed to the ship’s equipment, the hull has returned a still sealed olletta which has preserved its olive content and a copper situla with notable traces of use. Three oil lamps were found next to the right side of the hull, one of which, of African production, bears the IUNI ALEXI stamp. Numerous fragments of commonly used canteen and kitchen pottery together with some grinder mortars completed the equipment on board, to meet the daily needs of the crew. At the bottom of the hold, under the copper situla, perhaps used for caulking, the skeletal remains of a small dog and a large rat were found. At the time of the discovery, a coiled hawser in good condition was recovered on the sandy bottom. Heavy and large granite pebbles were perhaps used as ballast, in order to distribute the weight of the ship. The use of ballast was necessary to balance the weight of the load. The inexperience in stowage operations was not an infrequent cause of shipwrecks even in the protected waters of the ports.

Roman ship (150 – 200 AD)

The hull of the Procchio wreck (Roman ship) lay at ca. 30 m from the shore, at a depth of m 2, and from 1967 to 1969 much of its material, also scattered in a large area around it, was recovered by the Archaeological Superintendence of Tuscany and by the Teseo Tesei Underwater Club. The ship, originally well preserved because it was buried under a layer of sand and mud, is today in a precarious condition. From the surveys carried out at the time of recovery it appears that it was a cargo ship, just under 20 m long and with a cargo capacity of 60 t around Mie. From it, numerous fragments of the planking have been recovered (in wood, nails and lead sheets that covered the hull externally. Some tiles – belonged to the roof of the control cabin; heavy sulfur loaves and a box of usta magnesia were probably an integral part The goods transported were otherwise heterogeneous, both in quality and in origin. The amphorae, of four shapes (Pelichet 47, Africana IA, Dressel 14 and Beltran II B), belong to three different production areas: Gallia, Africa and Spain. The first type was used for the transport of wine, while the African ones contained figs, the seeds of which have been found. The forms Dressel 14 and Beltran II B were used for fish sauces. The presence of a stamp MATVR,. On the neck of a Pelichet 47, and the particular profile of the African date the wreck in the second half of the 2nd century AD. Some glass jars, sometimes preciously decorated, were certainly part of the load; likewise an ivory statuette, depicting Bacchus and Pan, which was assumed to serve as a stopper for a perfume holder. Among the ceramic finds, partly intended for use on board, partly for loading, there are some oil lamps, a few tableware and a lot of common and kitchen ceramics, of African, Italic and Gallic production. Due to its characteristics, the ship is used for small and medium cabotage routes, testifying to the presence of routes along the northern coast of the island. The variety of goods it carried, and the particular quality of some of them, may suggest that it was destined to supply the great patrician villas that had long since sprung up in the area. Most of the materials are now exhibited at the Archaeological Museum of Marciana

How to reach the Procchio wreck

The wreck is located in the stretch of sea of ​​the Guardiola . Currently it is not visible, because it is covered by sand.