Roman Bilge Pump Bearing

Contributed by Castle Cornet - Guernsey Museums

Roman Bilge Pump Bearing

One of two cast bronze bearings from the bilge pump of a Roman ship which caught fire and sank in St Peter Port harbour around AD280. Of surprisingly modern appearance, such bearings are known from Roman shipwrecks in the Mediterranean. Pitch being carried in the aft hold of the ship melted during the fire, sealing the bearings and many other objects, effectively preserving them. The ship is the largest and most intact Roman vessel surviving from Britain and is one of the oldest sea-going ships found in northern Europe. It appears to have been a merchant vessel engaged in coastal trade, with objects from as far apart as Algeria and Germany on board. It is constructed in a Gallic or Celtic manner using heavy oak timbers fastened by massive iron nails. Gallic vessels which sound remarkably similar were described by Julius Caesar almost four centuries earlier.

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