Excavation, Reconstruction, Restoration and Presentation to the Public of the Barge Arles-Rhône 3 (France)

© Rémi Bénali, Mdaa/CD13


The AR3 wreck during the search © Teddy Seguin, O’Can-Ipso Facto, Mdaa/CD13

The wreck:

The Arles-Rhône 3 is the wreck of a 31m long Gallo-Roman barge built in the shipyards of Arles in the middle of the 1st century AD, sinking it its port of origin less than ten years after its construction while it was still in a seaworthy condition. The weight of the cargo of this trading ship in  its last trip, buried it in the Rhone, condition that has allowed the preservation of its internal facilities intended to receive the various loads, its navigation equipment and its votive currency for nearly 2000 years. The barge was discovered in 2004, surveyed in 2005 and 2006, then excavated from 2007 to 2011 and refloated the same year.

The reassembly of the barge in the museum in 2013 © Rémi Bénali, Mdaa/CD13

The project:

The teams of the Department of underwater and underwater archaeological researches (DRASSM)/Ministry of Culture and the National Commission for Archaeological Research followed the excavation and recovery project of the barge by validating the steps and supervising the operations. In 2011, the excavation and the raising were realized/done by a team from the departmental museum Arles antique in association with the O’Can and Ipso Facto companies.

Between 2008 and 2011, the period of the excavations, the teams of the Arles Antique Departmental Museum have set up a rich and ambitious communication plan and mediation programme in order to reach a wide audience through numerous media events whose main purpose is to "make the invisible visible". Similarly, meetings on the banks of the Rhône with archaeologists, divers and restorers and "virtual tours" of the site with a camera on board by an archaeologist-diver were organised. The teams of this museum also organised events such as the Rhône Movie Party evenings, but also a special exhibition, publication of articles and the publication of a book for the general public.

Public access:

Following the restoration of the barge, which lasted from 2011 to 2013, it was installed in the departmental museum of ancient Arles in a new wing dedicated to the seaport of Arles in Roman times. The barge is presented in a navigational situation, in a pit and with approximately 480 objects surrounding it. This layout evokes to visitors the themes of navigation, sea-river trade and port activities.

Following the excavation and study, a scientific monograph was written; this study is considered a reference within the international community of maritime archaeologists. A working group (GEISER) has been created throughout France to share with other museums feedback on the monitoring of wrecks presented within museums. A similar group has been set up at European level (MOPS), bringing together museums presenting the most prestigious wrecks preserved and presented to the public, such as the Vasa Museum (Sweden), the Mary Rose Museum (Great Britain) and the Bremen Museum (Germany).

In addition, since 2016, the Musée Arles Antique has, thanks to its new wing, joined the Association of Maritime Museums of the Mediterranean; and has been participating in the "Escale à Sète"   event since 2018 (in English “Stopover in Sète”), an event placed under the French patronage of the French National Commission for UNESCO.

Contact Information

Website: http://www.arles-antique.cg13.fr/mdaa_cg13/ar3/index.htm

© Lionel Roux, Mdaa/CD13

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