Roman Ship, “De Meern 1”, was wrecked in a winding tributary of Rhine, 190 AD, due to navigational error. Much of ship’s interior and captain’s personal belongings were preserved in cabin, including collection of tools. It allows an extraordinary glimpse into life aboard vessel.

Kane Khanh | Archeaology
December 8, 2023

It’s a bit of a weird topic, but I want to talk about a Dutch-Roman ship called de Meern 1. The ship is one of the few Roman ships that has not been found in a dumped state, the Meern 1 was lost during a storm between 150-200 after christ. The ship was most probably a maintenance-ship for the Limes Road in the Lowlands. Due the fact she was lost in a storm makes her one of the few Roman ships in which provisions, tools and personal items aboard is preserved.

The ship shows a nice insight in the lives aboard during that period in the Lowlands or Germania Inferior. The ship dates back roughly to the year 148 to 200. She was probably built as cargoship on the river Rhine but the fact that she has a captain’s cabin suggests she has been converted to a maintenance-ship by the Romans . She was was a 25 meter long ship and 2.7 meters in width with a very shallow draft, 30 cm unloaded. She was a one masted ship with for the time a very common construction. The wood the used was mainly from the Eifel-area, but the bow and stern were made out of wood which could only be found near modern Zwolle and higher, whilst the ship dating is after the Roman said the Rhine is our border. This suggests that Romans had trade with tribes higher north of the Rhine.

The Meern 1 has a construction which is very distinctive for Roman shipbuilding, namely the hull  and the bottom, the joints, are made out of one piece. See the picture below. Also notable: the Romans never used standardised length for the riverships. The tree-length was the as long they would make the ship. So lenght and width might vary within a class.


The Ship was found in 1997 and lifted in 2003. The Meern 1 is currently on display in Castellum Utrecht where she still being preserved.

 The Per Mare ad Laurium

She is the modern day reconstruction of the ship, the Per Mare ad Laurium shows with what tools she was constructed and how she might have looked liked in the day, she currently is harbored in Woerden. Due the many bridges in Woerden she doesn’t have a mast. The ship can be hired to sail around Woerden.