Living Danube Limes Valorising cultural heritage and fostering sustainable tourism by LIVING the common heritage on the DANUBE LIMES as basis for a Cultural Route

Logbook of Shipbuilding

Reconstruction of a late Roman Danube ship

Based on the remains of Roman ship wrecks discovered in Mainz, our partner Friedrich-Alexander University reconstructs a late Roman Danube ship from the 4th century CE. Follow the progress in detail!



1 The felling of the oaks


The hull of the Danuvina Alacris requires 18 oak trunks, some of which are 20 metres long. The oaks were felled in the week from 9 to 14 November 2020, with the participation of local television stations.

Only in the autumn, preferably in winter, when the trunks are maximally sapped, the oak may be felled. This is of crucial importance for subsequent drying. Due to continuous planks, some of the oaks had to be over 20 metres long. In addition, we have selected about 60 pieces of krummholz (oak), which are used, for example, for the stern frame. Roman methods were also used for the sawing and moving of the wood. The next step is to transport the solid oak trunks to the building site. Considering the length and weight (approx. 1t/m³) this is a great challenge.

Photo: Mathias Orgeldinger


2 Week from 15 to 20 November


After felling with a press date on 9.11., further (initially up to 12 trunks) oaks were felled. On several dates since then, on 14.11. in a Roman way, we have been out in the forest and sawed logs.

First we sawed the logs ourselves, later together with the boat builder, who picked out the most important big branches and trunks. In the end we came up with about 70 knee timbers.

At the same time, we continued to plane oars and made progress in terms of line planing.

Photo:  Alexander Hilverda


3 The templates (malls) are ready!


Many things happen at the same time. The malls for the boat building are ready, so are the felled oaks for the transport to the Altmühlsee, study seminars are in progress.

All 15 oaks have been felled and are waiting for their transport. They are at least 50 cm wide and almost all 20 m long. In addition, there are various types of krummholz. The logs are to be processed into planks at Altmühlsee, where the boat building will also take place, which is a challenge due to the length of 19.3 m. The 18 malls (templates) are built. Also the lofting is ready: Clean work of the boat builder. Meanwhile the oars for the Danuvina Alacris and the F.A.N., an imperial patrol boat, are being built: 49 x 4.10 m oars and 42 x 4.70 or 4.40 m oars are pre-cut or even already finished and painted. We still have beams for three more 4.40/4.70 oars.

In the meantime the student seminars have started where shields are being reconstructed and built. So far 4 oval shields have been produced. Our reconstruction model is based on a combination of two different shield types, in line with our aim to cover a timeframe between 250 and 400 AD. We decided to use an oval shape based on the Dura Europos finds in Syria, mixed with a construction of little boards which is passed down through three shields which are now part of a private art collection dating from the late 4rd until early 5th cen. Of course we also had the technical skills of our students in mind, but we think that such a construction is also possible based on the few finds we have. We are very enthusiastic about the result, as it is the first time that our students have produced such not easy to build shields. Furthermore were able to test birch against poplar – both documented in Dura Europos and on the 3 fragmented shields from the private art collection – and decided to use poplar (easier to bend).

Photo: Margit Schedel


4 The transport of the oaks


At the beginning of December, another important hurdle was taken: the transport of the 15 felled oaks from the Sebald Reichswald to the building site at the Altmühlsee, 80 km away.

It was no easy undertaking when the oak trunks, each about 21 m long, had to be hoisted onto the transporter in adverse weather conditions and then transported to the Altmühlsee. Also because of the enormous weight: one cubic metre of oak weighs about 1.3 tonnes.

But in the end we were successful. But there are still about 50 krummholz to be transported.

Photo: Mathias Orgeldinger


5 Workshop: From archaeological finds to reconstruction


The first workshop on traditional craftsmanship was held on 14 December 2020 – progress with the double hall at the construction side

On 14 December the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, hosted the first workshop connected to the reconstruction of the 4th century lusoria. Due to COVID-19, it had to take place online via Zoom, but was still a success. Around 50 people took part, including project partners, experts and the general public. Simultaneous translation into German was provided. Speakers were Prof Dr Boris Dreyer (Erlangen), Dr Ronald Bockius (Mainz) and Dr Timm Weski (Munich). They talked about the reconstruction according to the inventory in Mainz and with the help of parallel finds as well as about the status of the reconstruction of the Danuvina Alacris and the classification in the overall project.The evaluations after the workshop show that the audience was very satisfied.

For the Danuvina Alacris, further oars were planed and cut in Arberg.

The building permit for the double hall in Schlungenhof came through successfully. Tenders to companies have already started, offers have been received.

Photo: Alexander Hilverda


6 Latticing of the oak trunks


In Schlungenhof, the oak logs and oak krummholtz transported there before Christmas were latticed. A team of students, boat builders, professional sawyers and - as far as allowed by Covid 19 conditions - volunteers sawed the oak logs according to the specifications. Exemplary Roman frame saws were also used. However, most of it was sawn after initial difficulties with the modern mobile frame saw, which came specially from Bremen and can saw excess lengths (up to about 19.30 m). These sawn laths were well layered and secured so that they can dry well.

Photo: Boris Dreyer


7 The construction of the boat hall has begun!


The authentic replica of the late antique patrol boat is not to be done behind closed doors. Rather, the concept is to make the construction as transparent as possible. That is why the Danuvina Alacris is built in a hall with two sides glazed. A large swing door will be installed at the front and at the back. This allows interested parties to experience the boat building process live. An important step has now been taken: Here, at the Altmühlsee (Gunzenhausen), where the boat will also be stationed later, the construction of the hall has now begun.

Photo: Andreas Gronau


8 The oars of the Danuvina Alacris


For the Danuvina Alacris we assume 20 rowers. The shape and texture (spruce) of the necessary oars can be determined with some certainty, but the length is unclear and thus the subject of experiments. For this reason we produce them with two different lengths: 4.1 m and 4.7 m. We aim at a total of 40 oars. We have finished about half of them and have already started with the rest. They are planed with a Roman plane, which has been faithfully reproduced according to finds. The planing is a real hard work, because you have to make sure that the oars are uniform. It is also possible that knots will become visible after the squared timber has been planed. These then represent a predetermined breaking point.

Photo: Boris Dreyer




On Saturday and Sunday, the participants were introduced to the EU Interreg DTP project „Living Danube Limes“, accompanied by the media and in compliance with hygiene regulations. The context of boat building, the history of inland navigation, the special features of current boat building, but also the Roman past of the Limes and of Gunzenhausen were discussed by Boris Dreyer, the boat building basics also in the special case were reported by master boat builder Andreas Gronau, boat builder Frank Jäcklein, journeyman Alexander Blümel and apprentice Lena-Marie Kulke. This included the treatment of wood, the drying of wood, the making of working templates, the handling of tools, the explanation of the lines and body plans as construction plans of the boat builders in general and in the specific case, the essentials about the Gallo-Roman boat building method.

Practical work was also done: On Saturday, the keel was towed from the lumber yard to the boat building site, cut to size and protected. On Sunday, building on this, the stem of the boat was first made as a template from the plan, then sawn out at the timber yard and then transported to the building site, where it was further cut to size.

Photo: Miriam Sapio - The spoon auger driven by a rope bow represents an ancient and very effective way of woodworking.




On 29 April the keel laying of the Danuvina Alacris took place at the Altmühlsee, Gunzenhausen (Germany), an important stage at the beginning of the boat-building process. The boat builders under the direction of master Andreas Gronau have done the preliminary work by making sure that the keel is firmly anchored in the ground and then comes to rest on a crossed pawl, a framework of squared timbers. The laying of the keel is also of strong symbolic power. That is why "real" Romans also placed a coin under the keel in the first section. This is supposed to bring good luck. Furthermore, the "Romans" symbolically fixed the keel to the pawl and also offered a "libation". The keel was then properly fixed and aligned by the "modern" boat builders, and then also protected against wind and weather. Let's wish the boat always a hand's breadth of water under the keel!

The construction of the hall is still a challenge due to delivery bottlenecks caused by Covid-19. The glue trusses cannot be delivered until July. If no replacement can be found quickly, construction of the hall will have to be put on hold until then.

Photo: Mathias Orgeldinger


11 Working on the keel and installing the malls


Malls are frame templates that are used to shape the later plank courses. We had finished them before, but had to wait with using them until the roof over our building site was constructed, because the malls have to be braced with the roof so that they are fixed. The malls are now braced with a so-called donkey.

We also built a temporary corrugated iron roof to protect the wood and the helpers building the boat from the rain. In addition, we were able to receive more crooked timbers (krummholtz) that were delivered from northern Germany. Their natural curvature is of great importance for certain wooden parts of the boat (e.g. the frames). The oak trunk selected for the keel (length 18 m) is already planed. We discovered some rotten spots (brown rot) in the wood, which we chiselled out. These spots were replaced by bungs (i.e. replacement wood). Such rot is completely normal in an oak trunk of such length and does not pose any further problem.

Photo: Constantin Gläser


12 Stems are connected to the keel of the boat


The stems are components of the "framework" of the hull. They are the forward and aft (sternpost), upward extension of the keel.

First, the 3 mm thick templates of the 1:10 model were transferred to the original size. Then, with the help of these original-size templates, we sawed oak blocks to size with a band saw. For the sternpost we needed a larger block. The sternpost consists of two parts that are lashed together. Then the stems were planed until they were sufficiently thin and pointed. In the end, the sterns were attached to the keel.

The templates (malls) have also been finally adjusted, but they still have to be connected to the keel and to the so-called donkey.

Photo: Boris Dreyer

13 First plank is in place


The latest work initially covered the preparation of the construction site. The so-called donkey was fixed. The keel was prepared and treated with linseed oil. Then the templates (malls) were fixed in their previously determined positions, and these fixed templates were connected with the aligned donkey. Next, the fore and aft sterns were cut from the solid wood and fixed to the keel. Then strips were produced, which, when attached to the template, should make it easier to fair the edges of the template.

At the height marked on the templates for the sheer strake, two battens were attached at the top and bottom to mark the first plank. The model for the first plank was placed in their centre. Small battens were attached to this model batten so that they touched the edge battens for the first plank. Once these were fixed and dry, they were removed and could be placed on the oak planks that had been pre-sawn in January. After that, the oak was sawn out, planed and then fixed. On Monday 21 June, an 18 m continuous oak plank was, as the first plank, fixed.

Photo: Boris Dreyer


14 Activities Around Shipbuilding


For the crew of the Danuvina Alacris we produce shields, for which colours, ornaments and figures are tested. The shield bosses are worked at a Roman forge, demonstrated by an artisan blacksmith. The many volunteers involved in shipbuilding also meet again and again at the shipbuilding site for acticities in a Roman context. Not only do they talk about the latest progress in shipbuilding and what's next, but they also discuss authentic Roman clothing. Roman nails or shield bosses are forged then with a Roman forge. As far as food is concerned, we experience with Roman recipes. For example, we bake Roman flatbread, which we eat with moretum. To go with it, we drink mead in Roman dishes, for example.


Photo: FAU


15 The second milestone


The second milestone has been reached with the adjustment of the top plank courses to starboard and portside, and the schedule has been made up despite the delay caused by Corona at the start (until the end of April).

At the end of June, an Austrian film crew accompanying the project, filmed Roman craft methods on and near the boat. Forging processes were also filmed, for which the forge was fired up. Shield bosses were forged, planks were sawn with a Roman box saw, and holes were drilled in planks with a drill bit/spoon bit.

Further, the motifs for the sign were tested. Colour nuances and shades were tested with the different colours in antique composition. The Victoria motif, especially her face, was also practiced.


Photo: Margit Schedel


16 Workshop: Roman craftsmanship and Roman shipbuilding


Date: 22-23 July, 2021 (each 10:00 am - 05:00 pm)

Venue: Seestraße 17, 91710 Gunzenhausen


At the workshop on Roman craftsmanship and Roman shipbuilding, the workshops proceeded separately according to major craft categories, but always maintained a connection to each other and in particular to shipbuilding.

The programmes and the schedule were partly simultaneous, but in such a way that the introduction and the introduction to a new craft activity were nested one after the other. In this way, everyone could participate in each introduction, but could also choose to stay with the active participation in the craft. Then each participant was given the opportunity to carry out the craft activities themselves, while respecting hygienic regulations.

Among other things, participants could forge iron nails and shield bosses at the blacksmithing stand whereas the boatbuilding stand offered explanations regarding different planking techniques: clinker and carvel.

Additionally to boatbuilding and blacksmithing topics the construction of the shield was explained in the individual phases on the second day.


Photo: Mathias Orgeldinger



17 Floor plates and ribs


The floor plates are the side braces and side stiffeners that cross the keel beam in the boat. We are close to the historical model, but in such a way that the floor plates are cut from the solid wood along the grain as far as possible. This makes the side stiffening more stable.

There will be well over 30 floor plates in total. In addition, there will be twice as many ribs: Transverse stiffeners that stiffen the starboard and portside of the boat up to the rubber rail. They do not go over the keel. The floor plates and ribs have a thickness of about 5 cm and are thus relatively narrow, true to the findings, but the quantity guarantees safety, just like in the original, even if it is more unsystematic here. This painstaking work will keep us busy for some time. First of all, each floor plate has to be removed with a chain, using the ribbands, and this has to be done anew at each position, because each time it is fitted it gives a new shape. The shape is drawn on the solid wood (oak) using the shape chain and then the floor plate is sawn out. These processes must be repeated several times until the optimum fit is achieved.


Photo: FAU


18 Floor Plates and Ribs (Part 2)


The diligence work continues. Up to 35 floor plates are made. These are fitted from the hull with a flexible chain. To do this, three modelling strips are placed on portside, as far as the floor plate will later reach, on the outside of the chine at the faired mall edges. At least three points must be able to be transferred to the chain through the strips. This means that three strips must be attached over 18 metres.

These three points are then transferred from the chain to the template (poplar, 3 mm). The points are connected with a small  faired batten, the poplar is sawn out as a template and transferred to a floor plate of a suitable oak trunk. Using this template, the oak is then sawn out and planed. This has to be repeated over thirty times, each floor plate has an individual shape.

The same must then be done for the ribs (futtocks): from the chaine to the sheerstrake.


Photo: Boris Dreyer


19 Floor Plates and Ribs (Part 3)


The floor plates are now cut out in sufficient quantity. They are now planed and smoothed for their position. These are followed by the ribs (futtocks). Their number corresponds to twice the quantity of the floor plates. For driving safety, the diameters and lengths always deviate a little from the historical model, so that accidents are avoided and the boat can also withstand being lifted by a crane and transported over land: something the Roman model did not have to endure. A solid piece of oak is made into the mast frame. This work is now underway.


Photo: FAU


20 Our Boatbuilder


Master boat and ship builder Andreas Gronau (born 1984) is in charge of building the Danuvina Alacris. Andreas Gronau completed his training as a boat and ship builder at the Rathje Yacht and boat building yard in Kiel (1999-2003). This was followed by longer stays for further professional training in England, Ireland and Scandinavia during which he worked at various wooden boat and shipyards (2003-2007). In 2004, he founded a boatyard for classic racing dinghies, followed in 2012 by the establishment of a shipyard for the restoration, repair, new construction and reproduction of wooden boats. Since 2004, he has built a total of 26 new wooden boats. He has already gained experience in the field of rebuilding historic boats, for example, he worked on the historic rebuilding of the Dunbrody Famine Ship. From 2004 to 2012, Andreas Gronau was also responsible for the restoration and conservation of numerous originals (type: racing dinghy) from the 1920s and 1930s. He is regularly involved in the conception of exhibitions on shipping in the Altona Museum. So far, Andreas Gronau has trained 12 apprentices as boat and ship builders.


Photo: Miriam Sapio


21 OUR Blacksmith


The authentic reconstruction we strive for the Danuvina Alacris also means that the tools used to build the boat are made in an authentic way. This requires a skilled as well as dedicated blacksmith.


Thomas Hürner was trained as an artisan blacksmith from 1979 to 1983. After successfully passing the journeyman's examination in metal construction, he completed further training in old forging techniques (stylistics, shaping and working techniques). In 1989 he passed the master craftsman's examination in metal construction. In 1996 he took over the family business. In 2005-2007 he studied to become a restorer in the smithery, which he successfully completed. Since 2010 he has been a member of the examination board of the Chamber of Crafts for Middle Franconia. In addition to metal design and the restoration of metal objects, his areas of work also include the reconstruction of objects using classical forging techniques. In addition, he also distinguishes himself as a committed lecturer. 


Photo: Mathias Orgeldinger


22 The project manager of the PP FAU


Prof. Dr. Boris Dreyer is supervising the construction of the Danuvina Alacris as project manager of the project partner Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU).

During his work as a research associate, research assistant and senior assistant at the Department of Ancient History in Göttingen, he was released for various research stays, such as a fellowship at the Center for Hellenic Studies, a Harvard-branch in Washington DC (USA, 2003-2004), as a research fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (USA, 2005). In 2004, he was awarded the Heisenberg Fellowship of the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft), which took him to the University of Frankfurt (Germany, 2005) and as a research fellow to King's College in London (2006). In 2007, he held the Chair of Ancient History at the University of Frankfurt. In 2009 he was appointed Professor of Ancient History at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg.

His research focuses on the history of Athenian democracy, Greek and Roman historiography and history from the late Republic to the middle imperial period. Other research interests are connected with the editing of literary and inscriptional texts. Another focus of his work lies in the mediation of science, for example in the context of the reconstruction of ancient boats. Before the start of the Living Danube Limes project, he was responsible for the construction of an imperial patrol boat, the Friedericiana Alexandrina Navis (F.A.N.), which embarked on its maiden voyage in 2018.


Photo: Mathias Orgeldinger


23 Steaming of planks


Recently, floor plates and futtocks were adjusted. The keel area was vacuumed out and the floor plates and futtocks were oiled with linseed oil. Some of the floor plates had cracks, which were filled with a brown wood tar paste. Also, floor plates and futtocks had to be planed and were provided with a so-called phase, a bevel.

Planks were added, initially only every second one. This procedure is called French construction. Especially towards the ends (bow and stern) the planks had to be steamed in a steam box. This was the only way to make the planks flexible enough to take on the boat's diagonal angles. After steaming, the planks were attached to the boat and pressed against the moulds for a few hours to keep this shape. By now, the planks for the whole area in the lateral plan have been attached. The next step is to put in dead ends in the upper area.

It is important that the planks fit together well in a carvel manner. Here, delicate work is necessary with regard to the angles of the bevel. With a thickness of 2.5 cm, the planks of the Danuvina Alacris are particularly thin. For comparison: the planks of the reconstruction of an imperial patrol boat, the F.A.N., are 4 cm thick.

At the same time, work continued on the shields for the later crew of the Danuvina Alacris. Here, cowhide edges were nailed on and sewn. Some shields were primed. The bosses are basically finished and have to be adjusted in the next steps.


Photo: FAU


24 The replica "Danuvina Alacris" - Part 1


The D.V.C. belongs to the so-called Gallo-Roman building tradition. It is a boat made entirely of oak and held together with a moulding consisting of floor plates, futtocks, planks and iron nails. It is a flat-bottomed vessel with a carvel outer skin. Construction is using moulds and will be built in the so-called French technique (first, only every second plank is installed) as the planking material is still wet. By the end of the year, the replica will be ready with the completion of the outer skin, and a large part of the 4000 iron nails will have been inserted by then. The moulds will still have to be hammered out to start the interior construction.

The D.V.C. belongs to the type of patrol boat common in late antiquity and is not the first to be reproduced. The models in Mainz, two wrecks of different boats but of the same type and roughly the same time, have served several times as models for replicas (in Regensburg, Germersheim, Xanten).


Text: Boris Dreyer, Alexander Hilverda


Photo: The wreck I located in the RGZM Mainz, Boris Dreyer.


25 The replica "Danuvina Alacris" - Part 2


The methodological problem regarding the consctruction process of the D.V.C. is that not one coherent wreck serves as a model, but roughly contemporaneous but different wreck parts with bow and stern (at about 8 metres each), the so-called wrecks V and I of Mainz, must serve as a model. The first reconstruction according to Höckmann in Regensburg assumes a gap in the middle of the boat of approx. 4 metres. This conclusion is probably misguided. According to Bockius, the boats that must  be associated with the wrecks have a length of about 18 metres (with the associated consequences). The other replicas take the reconstruction of Bockius (2006) as a basis. This leads to a kink in the chine, which is hardly feasible, but also not historical. This kink is caused by the storage under the sediments. We have now made a new construction with Bockius, the boatbuilders Garleff and Gronau. This gives the boat a new shape that will put the tests on a new footing. More news will follow from this new shape, others will arise with the interior fittings, the rigging and the sailing.


Text: Boris Dreyer, Alexander Hilverda


Photos: Data provided by the RGZM Mainz; 3D reconstruction created by the Chair of Visual Computing of the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg


26 Christmas Greetings


At this point, we would also like to thank all the helpers and supporters of our project for the year 2021! Without them, the work in many places within the framework of our project sites along the Danube and especially at the shipbuilding site would not have been possible. Despite some restrictions due to the international pandemic situation, we were able to continue working on our Danuvina Alacris and look forward to a hopefully better 2022. We can hardly wait to follow the start of our Connecting Cruise from Ingolstadt on July 15th to its successful completion in the Danube Delta in early November.

Until then, we wish you all a peaceful holiday season and a wonderful Christmas with your family. Furthermore, we wish you a good start into the year 2022 combined with health and success!


Text: Danube University Krems


Photos: FAU


27 Final work at the end of 2021


At the beginning of December we finished the planking of the D.V.C. according to our plans. The planks sometimes have to be bent under steam, especially towards the stem, as axial-horizontal bending is necessary here. Here the planking has been done except at the chine sections. These are left out because the planks are still relatively damp and the drying can continue in the compound over the winter months, so that the planks can then be fitted to the neuralgic chine in the dried ("French") state with an exact fit. From mid-December onwards, the work on the oars dominated, of which two sizes are being made according to the pattern tried and tested on the FAN, a replica for an imperial patrol boat. Further, the spars of the sails were made as far as it was possible before the Christmas break. The mast and the square spars are now almost finished.


Text: Boris Dreyer / Alexander Hilverda


Photos: Boris Dreyer


28 Important helpers (part 1)


Without the numerous volunteers and students, the construction of the Danuvina Alacris could not succeed. The student Constantin Gläser is part of the core team, he has been there from the beginning and takes on work at the boat building site at the Altmühlsee several times a week.


What kind of work do you normally do?

I am responsible for ensuring that the Gopro camera continuously takes photos of the construction progress - to document the progress and to create time-lapse shots. Another standard activity is the fabrication of oars, i.e. marking, sawing, planing and fine sanding. I also do a lot of splicing, i.e. joining ropes, cordage, etc., and most recently a lot of nailing, we hammered a total of 3500 nails into the Danuvina Alacris. In addition, I instruct students who are new to the project.


What motivates you in particular?

I find it exciting to see how history is put into practice. I'm also excited about the craft training and being part of the team that is overcoming this challenge together.


What has been your most exciting or curious experience so far?

I found the tree felling really exciting and then the transport of the smaller logs out of the forest by horse.


Text: Constantin Gläser, Alexander Hilverda


Photo: FAU


29 Important helpers (part 2)


Without the numerous volunteers and students, the construction of the Danuvina Alacris could not succeed. The student Christof Schindler is part of the core team, he has been there from the beginning and take on work at the boat building site at the Altmühlsee several times a week.


What kind of work do you normally do?

In the last few months, I have mainly been helping to work out templates for the ribs and futtocks. I was also involved in the working process of the ribs. Recently, I also helped hammer the many nails into the boat. In addition, I support the boat builders with various activities.


What motivates you in particular?

I like the practical addition to my theoretical studies (history and political science). I am also attracted by the further training in craftsmanship and the mastering of new challenges.


What has been your most exciting or curious experience so far?

In autumn and winter we didn't exactly have great weather. Nevertheless, we continued to work, which led, for example, to sanding ribs in a snowstorm.


Text: Christof Schindler, Alexander Hilverda


Photo: Mathias Orgeldinger


30 Boatbuilding defies winter


After the outer skin and the planks of the boat were in the foreground in December, more work is currently being done on the mast, the square spar, the sprit sparand the lateen spar. We have also hammered more iron nails through the planks and the floor plates as well as the futtocks. We still have to do the ones that go from the planks into the keel and that are along the gunwale. We have also been working on the production of oars in the 4.10 m and 4.70 m categories. Those with the intermediate size 4.4 m still need to be made.


Text: Boris Dreyer / Alexander Hilverda


Photo: Christof Schindler


31 More Hard Work


Work on the spars was also the last focus. A hard work that takes some time. Oars were sawn and planed. The production of the spars for the sails, especially the lateen rod, was started. In parallel, the conception for the painting of the Danuvina Alacris is underway. Some drawings have been made. For the crew's shields, the handles were sawn to size, planed and attached to the shield shape by riveting them.


Text: Boris Dreyer / Alexander Hilverda


Photo: FAU


32 Round Timbers


The round timbers have also been in focus lately.

a) Oars: The belts have been pre-cut in the various dimensions and then rounded and sanded according to the templates and dimensional specifications. After completion, a protective coating was applied and the markings burnt in. After that, the oars were leathered.

b) Spars: according to the specifications of the old manuals, the spars were reconstructed for the boat, as they did not exist in the original. The following were made: a mast, a yard, a sprit-spar and then a lateen rod. The respective adjustments took a long time, especially in the case of the lateen rod, which consists of two parts, an upper and lower spar, which are hafted in the middle.

c) Rudder: The two rudders were started in size suitable for low water.

The silhouettes of the later figurative painting were applied to the shields. Then the bosses were hewn and polished. Afterwards the bosses were nailed onto the twenty shields. Either the nails were cramped or riveted on the other side.


Text: Boris Dreyer / Alexander Hilverda


Photo: FAU


33 Preview of the Connecting Cruise (Ingolstadt part 1)


The starting point of the Connecting Cruise is Ingolstadt. The Oberstimm fort in what is now Manching stands out as an archaeological site, situated only a few kilometres south of Ingolstadt city centre. The cohort fort of Manching was part of the Upper Germanic-Raetian Limes and was built in the Claudian-Neronian period using a timber-earth construction method. It initially covered 1.43 ha before being extended to 1.66 ha in Flavian times. In this second period, stone was partly used as a building material. Not much is known about the unit stationed at Fort Oberstimm. Possibly the Cohors III Thracum civium Romanorum equitata bis torquata was stationed here at the beginning. The fort was built at the intersection of two important transport routes. One route ran on the southern lower terrace of the Danube from west to east, the other crossed the river from north to south as a ford.


Text: Alexander Hilverda


Photo: Model of the fort with the rear porta decumana from the west in its second construction phase of the first period (Kelten Römer Museum Manching).

Photo by Wolfgang Sauber – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,


34 Preview of the Connecting Cruise (Ingolstadt part 2)


In 1986, a spectacular find was made 50 m west of Fort Oberstimm: the relatively well-preserved wrecks of two Roman patrol boats. The site of the find is located on the former bank of the now relocated Brautlach, a small tributary of the Danube. The planks of the boats are made of pine, while the keel and the frames are made of oak. Dendrological investigations revealed that the trees for the boats were felled around the year 100 AD.  Unlike the Danuvina Alacris, these boats were built using the tongue and groove technique, which situates them in the Mediterranean boatbuilding tradition. The wrecks have been in the Celtic-Roman Museum Manching since 2005 and were already the model for historical replicas.


Text: Alexander Hilverda


Photo: Mathias Orgeldinger


35 Preview of the Connecting Cruise (Eining/Abusina)


After the start in Ingolstadt, the Danuvina Alacris will row around 28 km downstream to Eining, where a cohort fort was in operation from around 80 AD until the 5th century. The Romans called it Abusina. Here, too, the fort was initially built in an earth-and-wood construction method, before stones were used in a second phase. It had a maximum size of 1.8 ha. We know of several units that were stationed there: Cohors IV Gallorum, Vexillatio of Cohors II Tungrorum milliaria equitata, Vexillatio of Cohors IV Tungrorum milliaria equitata and Cohors III Britannorum equitata. The nearest larger garrisons were the Alen fort Pförring on the northern bank of the Danube, opposite today's Neustadt an der Donau to the west, and the legionary camp Castra Regina, today's Regensburg, to the northeast. Despite the basically good strategic location, it was necessary to compensate for the lack of a line of sight to Fort Pförring and the northern section of the Limes. For this purpose, a watchtower was erected on the vineyard to the north-east of Eining.


Text: Alexander Hilverda


Photo: Fort Abusina: Praetorium and left camp gate (on the right edge of the picture) By Wolfgang Rieger – own work, in the public domain


36 The shields for the crew (part 1)


For the crew of the Danuvina Alacris, 20 shields are elaborately handcrafted according to antique models. Our models are shields that were not made of solid wood. Such models have been handed down from antiquity in Dura Europos. They are shields made of plywood strips, which were glued together in several layers of birch or poplar. The decision was made in favour of oval shields from the 3rd century AD. The dimensions are 1.20 m in height and 90 cm in width. The maximum curvature in the middle is 9 cm.


Text: Boris Dreyer / Christina Sponsel-Schaffner / Alexander Hilverda


Photo: Miriam Sapio


37 The shields for the crew (part 2)


It was important to develop a form that could serve as a model for the shields. It is made of solid wood. A first layer with a thickness of 3 mm and a width of 3 cm is applied to the mould, which is fixed at the edge with staples. Poplar wood was chosen as the material. On top of this, the next layer of poplar is turned at a 90 degree angle and glued with the help of a mixture of curd and lime putty (this glue is quick-drying) and temporarily fixed with small nails. After a day's drying time, the next layer of poplar strips can be glued on after the nails have been removed.


Text: Boris Dreyer / Christina Sponsel-Schaffner / Alexander Hilverda


Photo: Giulia Iannicelli


38 The shields for the crew (part 3)


After waiting another day, the blank consisting of several layers of poplar strips can be removed from the mould. A template with the correct dimensions is placed on it, the blank is marked and then sawn out. A hole is cut out in the middle with a diameter of about 12 cm, leaving a bar (horizontal) that reinforces the handle.


Text: Boris Dreyer / Christina Sponsel-Schaffner / Alexander Hilverda


Photo: Mathias Orgeldinger


39 The shields for the crew (part 4)


With the antique glue mixture, which was also used for the poplar stripes, linen (weave density at least 500 gsm) is then glued to the front and back of the shield. The shield is secured at the edge with cowhide. A solid wood handle is attached to the inside of the shield by gluing it and by fixing it to the shield with small nails. This prevents it from slipping when four copper nails are hammered into the handle in the next step, connecting it to the shield body.


Text: Boris Dreyer / Christina Sponsel-Schaffner / Alexander Hilverda


Photo: Alexander Hilverda


40 The shields for the crew (part 5)


After fixing the handle, the shields are primed. Then the shield bosses are attached, which are made of bronze or similar. They are at least 2 mm thick, heated in a mould in advance and then shaped into a semicircle at least 6 cm high. With the brim, the shield boss has a diameter on the shield of about 20 cm. The shield bosses are attached to theshield together with the brim using four iron nails. The nails are then clipped off.


Text: Boris Dreyer / Christina Sponsel-Schaffner / Alexander Hilverda


Photo: Alexander Hilverda


41 The shields for the crew (part 6)


After fixing the shield bosses, the last but also the most time-consuming step follows: painting the shields. Beforehand, the outlines of the chosen Victoria motif were drawn on the shield. The colours that are now applied were determined experimentally beforehand, using only naturally occurring pigments. The Victoria motif is not documented on such shields, but it could belong to the period around 260 AD.


Text: Boris Dreyer / Christina Sponsel-Schaffner / Alexander Hilverda


Photo: Alexander Hilverda


42 3rd Workshop Roman Craftsmanship


We recently held our third and final workshop on traditional craftsmanship in the context of Roman boatbuilding at the boatbuilding site in Gunzenhausen. The one-day workshop was divided into a theoretical part in the morning and a practical part in the afternoon. The introduction was given by Prof. Dreyer (Erlangen). He also spoke about the possible gains in knowledge in the sense of experimental archaeology, which are possible through sailing tests with the Danuvina Alacris. Dr. Weski (Munich) followed this lecture by showing methods that can be used to infer the conditions and techniques of Roman sailing. The practical part was taken over by Mr Lahmeyer, a sailmaker from Hamburg, who made the sails for the Danuvina Alacris. Here, the workshop participants not only had various techniques for sails, ropes and textiles explained to them, but were also able to try them out and learn them themselves.


Text: Alexander Hilverda

Photo: Alexander Hilverda


44 The last ribs


The last templates were knocked out and the missing stringers and ribs (load-bearing components that reinforce the hull) were inserted.

The last planks in the chine (the transition area between the bottom and side walls of the hull) were also added. Afterwards, the last iron nails were hammered in and stapled. In this process, the nail driven through is shortened on the other side, bent and then driven back, while at the same time holding back on the side on which the nail was originally driven.


Text: Boris Dreyer, Alexander Hilverda

Photo: FAU


45 Preparation for craning


The longitudinal boards have been fitted to brace the ship longitudinally, 3 on the starboard and 3 on the port side, with more cargo battens to be added later.

The deck will then rest on the lower beam of the ways starboard and portside. The two upper boards near to the gunwale are wider and stronger than in the historic original. This compromise had to be made so that the Danuvina Alacris could survive the multiple cranings. A procedure that the Romans did not have to subject their boats to.


Text: Boris Dreyer, Alexander Hilverda

Photo: Alexander Hilverda


46 Mast thwart and nailing board


The mast thwart, the nailing board (for the running rigg) in the stern and the last thwart in the bow are installed. They are continuous and stiffen the boat to the side.

Towards the gunwale, the rubbing strakes on starboard and port are finished. The spacing of the gunwales and the centre aisle are set according to the historical pattern. The seams are caulked and sealed with wax, as in encaustic painting. At the same time, a few nails were hammered in.


Text: Boris Dreyer, Alexander Hilverda

Photo: Boris Dreyer


47 The Dramont pump


The Dramont pump was found in the wreck of a merchant ship. It works by the raise-lower method (like a bicycle pump). It is made of bronze and therefore demonstrably related to shipping. This is not the case with the other preserved pumps, such as a wooden pump from Colle Mentuccia, Rome. We first installedt his pump with great effectiveness (16 litres per minute output) in the F.A.N., an imperial patrol boat of Mediterranean design, which is a replica of the Wreck II of Oberstimm. There had been traces of a stationary installation of a bilge pump here, like Bockius suggested in 2002. However, this interpretation is not certain. The F.A.N.-pump was installed in a removable way. We have now done the same for the Danuvina Alacris in a similar way.


Text: Boris Dreyer, Alexander Hilverda

Photo: Boris Dreyer


48 The painting


The painting of the D.V.C. by means of encaustic is a partially saponified variant of beeswax, which was tested with various pigments. The pigment-binder mixtures are tested on pre-treated oak wood (the coloured part). The white mass is an adaptation of the recipe of "Punic wax" according to Pliny and can be used as a binder base. The new recipe was now implemented on the oak planks starboard and portside in the zone above the watersurface.


Text: Marcus Speck, Boris Dreyer, Alexander Hilverda

Photo: Marcus Speck


49 Shields nearing completion


The 20 shields for the crew of the Danuvina Alacris are nearing completion. Only a few details are still missing. The production took more than a year. After scientific preliminary work, a mould made of solid wood was developed, to which several layers of poplar wood were applied. Then the shields were glued together with linen at the front and back. They are secured at the edge by cowhide and frontally by a shield boss. Priming and painting followed, for which the colour pigments were developed in a scientifically experimental manner.


Text: Boris Dreyer, Alexander Hilverda

Photo: Alexander Hilverda


50 D.V.C. gets eyes


In June, the rudders, which had already been started in winter, were finished, including the suspension. The rudder is fastened at two points, by a sleeve directy beneath the rubbing strake portside and starboardside and by a sleeve at the outer part on both sides of the trenus bar. The inserts of the rowlocks were fixed to the rubbing strake in accordance with the oar-angles. The painting of the boat was also continued. The D.V.C. is becoming more and more alive, it has been given eyes!


Text: Boris Dreyer, Alexander Hilverda

Photo: FAU


51 Watering of the Danuvina Alacris (part 1)


On 26 June 2022, the time had finally come. The Danuvina Alacris was able to leave its boatbuilding hall in Schlungenhof. She was transported by heavy load from the hall to the shore of the Altmühlsee, only a few metres away, where a crane was already waiting for her. The crane then hoisted the boat onto the Altmühlsee with the help of a special lifting beam. There, a few metres above the water level, the boat floated. Part 2 began. Prof. Dreyer welcomed an audience of about 300 people, briefly informed them about the overall project and the boat building process. This was followed by greetings from Prof. Hirsch, one of the vice-presidents of FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg, Mr. Fitz, the mayor of Gunzenhausen, and Mrs. Naaß, the vice-president of the district parliament of Middle Franconia, who christened the boat. The boat was then launched onto the water. During this process, the so-called watering, the wood of the boat comes into contact with water for the first time. This water contact is an integral part of the boat-building process. The boat can sink a little during this process, as it is not yet watertight at this point and will fill up with water. The wood swells and expands - only now can the boat become really tight.


Text: Alexander Hilverda

Photo: Mathias Orgeldinger


52 Watering of the Danuvina Alacris (part 2)


Since there was actually very little water in the boat after the watering, it was even possible to dare a first test run, which was not expected. Without any rudders, because they were not mounted yet! However, this type of boat was able to prove that in an emergency it can also work without. If an experienced captain knows how to instruct his rowers accordingly, they can take over the manoeuvring completely. The boat was accompanied by the F.A.N., and in the end both boats arrived safely back in the harbour. The event was complemented by an extensive Living History programme. A brass band provided a festive setting. The Cohors XXVI Vol.C.R. sent a 9-man delegation and was supported by reenactors from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and boat-building volunteers. The Reenactors camped on site and provided visitors with insights into the Roman world at their stands with the help of numerous objects. There was also a stand where Roman food could be eaten free of charge. Two finished shields intended for the crew of the Danuvina Alacris were also on display.


Text: Alexander Hilverda

Photo: Mathias Orgeldinger

Programme co-funded by European Union funds (ERDF, IPA, ENI)