An essential part of this year’s unique exhibition at Jersey Museum arrives in the Island on 7 May. Timbers from the Gallo Roman ship discovered in St Peter Port Harbour in 1982, which have never been publicly displayed before, will form part of Treasure: Discovering Celts and Romans, along with the world-famous Iron Age coin hoard discovered in Jersey in 2012 and items from regional museums in Brittany and Normandy. Together the artefacts will be used to explain the cultural and economic links that have existed between the Channel Islands and France for more than two millennia.
Diver Richard Keen discovered the wreck of the Roman ship while looking for scallops on Christmas morning 1982. The timbers were raised in 1985 and sent to the Mary Rose Trust in Portsmouth for conservation.
It’s thought the vessel was similar to a type used by the Veneti tribe in Brittany and would have been some 25 metres in length, constructed of oak. The surviving timbers being about 18 metres in length and are impressive both in size and their state of preservation with the marks of the carpenter’s tools still visible.
The wreck contained several hundred shards of pottery including Gallic flagons, breakers, bowls and cooking pots dating from the late 3rd and early 4th centuries. The remains of five amphorae from Algeria and Spain were also discovered, one of which has graffito on its shoulder reading ‘PP CXV’, dating it to the late 3rd century AD. Eighty bronze coins were also retrieved conclusively dating the wreck to between AD 280 and AD 286.
Val Nelson of Jersey Heritage said, “These timbers form a really important element of the exhibition of Roman and Celtic artefacts discovered in the Channel Islands and along the neighbouring coast of France. We are very lucky to be able to display them for the first time publicly. Of course the coin hoard will be the centrepiece of the display, but everything else in the exhibition is vital to place the hoard in context, and to explain this fascinating period in our history.”
The discovery of the wreck and its associated finds shows the importance of the Channel Islands as part of the trading network with the Roman Empire during the 3rd and 4th centuries.
The timbers are being lent by the Guernsey Museum and have travelled from the Mary Rose Trust in Portsmouth where they have been conserved.