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I was very interested to read the article by Dario Gaddi and Carlo Beltrame ‘Fragments of Boats from the Canale Anfora of Aquileia, Italy and Comparison of Sewn-Plank Ships in the Roman Era’ (IJNA 42.2: 296–304). I appreciated the detailed description of the 1998 and 2005 finds, as well as the authors’ ‘Comparison with other recent finds’. However, I would like to correct some discrepancies in their description of the Cavanella d'Adige wreck excavated in 2008 and presented to an international audience at the XIII ISBSA in Amsterdam in October 2012, which will be published in the forthcoming proceedings of that conference.

In his analysis, Mr Beltrame states that he maintains ‘reservations about the identification of these wooden remains as part of a boat’ (p. 302). Such reservations could be considered valid if supported by archaeological elements; unfortunately, the author failed to mention information presented during the Amsterdam conference, and the response to his specific questions given at the end of that presentation.

It is not correct to say that ‘the fragment of boat is partially covered by other planks [so that] it is not possible to recognize any ‘frame stations’, which might be indicated by pairs of wooden pegs protruding from the bottom.’ (p. 301). In fact, the fragment was found under a layer of clay and completely excavated between July and August 2005. As discussed in Amsterdam, even if it was not possible to remove the timbers to check the inboard, a break in one of the planks has now allowed the confirmation of the presence of frames, evidenced by aligned pairs of pegs, protruding from the inboard. The analysis of the wood remains has brought to light three such ‘frame stations’.

Neither is it correct that ‘there is no evidence of a pitch coating which was normally used to protect the boats, especially on the outboard face’ (p. 302). On this wreck we have found both vegetal fibres and pitch which can be interpreted as remains of a coating system. We have even discovered a fragment of a caulking roll, which corresponds with a repair made from the outboard. According to the archaeological analysis, the absence of a complete coat of fibres and pitch is likely an effect of the later use of the planks as a revetment to support the riverbank. We cannot suppose that during this secondary use these planks were treated as though they were still part of a boat and maintained with regular coats of pitch.

I agree with the author that ‘it is not clear how Tiboni is able to recognize the prow (p. 302). As I stated clearly in Amsterdam, we cannot be sure which end was the prow; we only have at our disposal some technical elements, such as the general tapering of the structure and the particular shape of two of the planks. The uppermost strake has a narrow caprail along its upper edge, while the lower strake has been carved to form an L-shape, with a narrow lip extending all along its lower edge. The lip has a row of holes along its length, possibly hosting wooden coaks. These elements suggest that the planks were part of one side of a flat-bottomed boat. In fact, even if we are lacking crucial elements which would allow us to fully interpret the hull, such as the possible ‘transition element’ (monoxyle?) between bottom and side, we can propose a cultural affiliation for the Cavanella wreck. As stated at the ISBSA conference, following studies carried by Boetto and Rousse in 2011, the Cavanella wreck can be considered a sewn-plank boat of the Northern Adriatic region in the Romano-Padane tradition, built to navigate in rivers, and not ‘a flat-bottomed boat of the type used in central Europe in Roman times’ (p. 302).

All of these elements were presented at the ISBSA conference and might have further informed Beltrame's interpretation of the two ship fragments from Aquileia.