Found in 1940 in Valle Isola, north-east of Comacchio, the two monoxylous canoes, presumably late Roman (III-IV AD), were left on the spot and covered with the soil just after their discovery. Excavated by archeologists and retrieved in 1948, they were exhibited at the National Archeological Museum of Ferrara, where they are still kept. The restoration involved the adaptation of of the exibition space, the conservation of the two vessels, thanks to new materials and scientific analysis, aiming to identify the type of wood, the characterization of deterioration (identification of the causes) and identification of the products used in previous restorations.
Discovery, recovery and museum display
The two canoes displayed at the museum were found in 1940 during the excavations of an artificial canal in Valle Isola, in the reclaimed area of Comacchio Northern lagoons.
From the discovery until 1948, when the canoes were recovered and brought to the National Archeological Museum of Ferrara, several events happened in the area: a change of the environmental conditions, damages caused by timber-seekers, further digs and reburials. Among the latter are two trial excavations conducted by the archaeologist Fernanado Malavolti with the aim to check the stratigraphy and layers of the soil, which certainly did not help the preservation of the vessels. No materials were found except for a fragment of a late roman amphora, recovered from the layer of shells in the bottom of the ancient lagoon, which allowed to hypothesize the dating of canoes to the III-IV century AD. During the recovery operations, under the guidance of Nereo Alfieri, director of the National Archeological Museum of Ferrara, few but significant materials were also found. The wood splinters lying under the keel of the larger vessel, the presence of props along the sides and evidence of a fixing cap in the keel on the smaller vessel, as well as the tie-rod placed in its interior, lead to the hypothesis that the two boats were left for maintenance in the workshop of a caulker.
Since 1948 the boats were included in the museum itinerary, where they became the elements of great interest until the of the ‘80s. The Museum was then temporarily closed due to the architectural renovation of Palazzo Costabili. The size of the vessels ( 12.10 m and 14.76 m) conditioned the seat of the restoration, which lasted from November 2008 to March 2010, and had to take place within the exhibition hall itself.
However, this also encouraged the rapprochement to the “historicized” boats, and thanks to the willingness of the technicians visitors were allowed to follow some steps of the restoration, and get to know some of the complex issues related to the protection and preservation of archeological finds. These problems are even more complex and delicate when it comes to wooden artifacts