Digital Library

Lomellina (1516)

Max Guérout


Lomellina was a cargo ship lost at Villefranche-sur-Mer in 1516. The identification of this ship is tentative, but based on compelling archival research and artifact analysis.

The extensive archaeological remains of Lomellina, during the excavation season of 1987. Photo J.C. Hurteau (IRAA, CNRS Pau).

The shipwreck was found by Alain Visquis in 1979, 18 m deep, and excavated during nine field seasons, from 1981 to 1990, by Captain Max Guérout and a competent team – Groupe de Recherches en Archéologie Navale (GRAN) – which counted with the participation of Jean-Marie Gassend, Eric Rieth, Jean-Claude Hurteau, Maryon Delhaye, Christian Pétron, Guy Martin, Jean-Louis Pereyre, Phillipe Foliot, Pierre Brocot, Michel Truffaut.

The main characteristics of Lomelina were published in the Groupe de Recherche en Archéologie Navale (GRAN) website, which has a database of Mediterranean shipwrecks.

Shipwreck Site

The site occupies an area of 35 x 9 m, and consists of a significant portion of the port side of a large merchantman, inclined around 45 degrees and preserving the orlop and lower decks.

Picture of the site during excavation, in 1987. Photo J.C. Hurteau (IRAA, CNRS Pau).

Hull remains


The after portion of the keel with the overlying deadwood, perhaps a stern knee. Drawing Max Guérout.

The oak keel was between 30 and 32 m long, and its section 28 cm sided beneath the rabbets, and 40 cm molded. The after most portion of the keel was preserved, measuring 6.9 m. A second portion of the keel was not preserved but could be reconstructed from the shape left on the sediment. A third portion, probably measuring 9 m , was preserved along 8.5 m. A fourth portion of the keel was preserved along 9.32 m.

The rabbets were cut into the lower timber, the keel proper, and measured around 6 cm. In the stern, a second oak timber was positioned over the keel, 20 cm sided and 25 cm molded.


The bottom of the stem was preserved and four strakes’ hoods were still in place.

Keel and stem, 1990. Photo J.C. Hurteau (IRAA, CNRS Pau).


The sternpost was missing, but the after most portion of the keel turned upward with an angle of around 75 degrees, consistent with the 78 degrees of inclination measured on the preserved portion of the rudder.


The oak frames were preserved at four levels: floor timbers, first, second, and third futtocks.  The sided dimension of the frame timbers varies (19-23.5 cm) and so does the room and space (22-27 cm).

The floor timbers observed in the stern portion of the hull remains were connected to the keel and the overlaying deadwood with 3 cm iron bolts.

The first futtocks were assembled to the floor timbers’ forward face with a dovetail scarf and two fore and aft iron nails. The second and third futtocks are fastened to the lower frames with diagonal nails, probably inserted with the frames in place. The second futtocks were fastened to the stern face of the first, and the third to the forward face of the second futtocks.

Section of the hull transversal structure, showing the floor timbers and the first, second, and third futtocks.

One particular frame, number W70, placed around 6 m abaft the presumed position of the midship frame, is connected to first futtocks on both fore and aft faces, and could be the ship’s aft tail frame.


The keelson was preserved along a very small extension, under the mast step arrangement.  It was around 28 cm sided and 25 cm molded, and lightly notched to fit above the floor timbers.  Its forward end was a flat horizontal scarf with a 57 cm table.

Mast Step

The mast step was formed by two sister keelsons and a  number of buttresses.

Axonometric perspective of the maststep arrangement. Drawing Max Guérout.


Two dented stringers, 18 cm sided and 15 cm molded, covered the overlaps between the floor timbers and first futtocks, and the second and third futtocks.


The ceiling planking was nailed to the frames and covered the transversal structure up to the lower deck clamp.


Around 30 hull strakes, in oak and pine, were preserved over the garboard. The oak strakes are positioned over the frame timber overlaps and fastened to the stringers, through the frames. The pine strakes cover the remaining hull surface.

the lower 15 strakes are around 12 cm thick and above those the hull planks are around 10 cm thick.


All fasteners were in iron.


The keel sides were protected with lead sheathing, which prolongs upwards, covering the lower 26 hull strakes.

Orlop Deck

The lower, unplanked, orlop deck lied around 95 cm above the mast step, and was constituted by a solid structure composed of simple and double deck beams. The second were composed of two 20 x 20 cm overlying deck beams, the lower nested on a notch in the stringer, and the upper hook-scarfed to a standing knee.  Five or six simple deck beams, 14-18 cm sided and 13-15 cm molded, were placed between the double beams.

Stanchions around 17 x 17 cm in section were placed underneath the deck beams, supporting a longitudinal timber over which the beams are placed.

Lower Deck

The lower deck was placed around 2 m above the orlop deck, and was supported by a large clamp, 20 cm sided and 22 cm molded, and composed of deck beams with varying dimensions, connected to the clamp with dovetail scarves. The beam sided dimensions varied between 10 and 20 cm and were irregularly placed, with spaces between them from 10 to 60 cm.


Coins, majolica, and early 16th century ceramics were found on this site.


Twelve guns were preserved in situ, ten in iron and two in bronze. A number of ceramic grenades were also recovered from the site.

Hull Shape

This vessel is markedly whine glassed and its midship section is circular.

Midship section of Lomellina, showing the whine glass shape and the circular floor timber. Drawing J. M. Gassend.


All archaeological reconstructions are tentative to a certain extent. The team that excavated Lomellina developed several models, on paper and to scale, and they are extremely helpful for the future interpretations of this site.

Archaeological model of Lomellina, by Roberto Greco. Photo: GRAN.

Specialist Roberto Greco developed two models, one with the archaeological data and a reconstructed one.

Full model, by Roberto Greco. Photo: GRAN.

Ships are built, sailed, lost, found, excavated, recorded, and reconstructed, and their lives continue in our imagination. In this particular case, the data retrieved from this site allowed a series of tentative reconstructions that seem plausible and accurate.

Although all reconstructions are conjectural and tentative, the archaeological data upon which these models were developed guarantees the plausibility of the present reconstruction.

Beam: Estimated 12 m
Keel Length: 33.80 m
Length Overall: Estimated 46.45 m
Number of Masts: Three plus bowsprit.


Anonyme,  2015 – Villefranche-sur-mer – Epave de la Lomellina – Sep de drisse, dans Rapport d’activité 2013/2014 d’ARC Nucleart, p.47

Bertholon Régis, Lacoudre Noël, Montluçon Jacques,  1989. – L’électrolyse appliquée à la conservation d’un canon en fer forgé du XVIe siècle, dans Cahiers d’Archéologie subaquatique, numéro VIII, Fréjus, p. 5-18.

Boumlil Nébia, 2007 – De beaux objets en bois gorgé d’eau, dans Sauvé des Eaux, (dir. Pierre Vaudaine, ARC-Nucleart), Villeurbanne,  p.127-129.

Cazenave de la Roche Arnaud, 2008 – La tonelería en el contexto marítimo de la época del Renacimiento: estudio de un cargamento de toneles hallado en el pecio de Villefranche s/mer (1516).” Revista de Arqueología (Espagne).

Cazenave de la Roche Arnaud, 2007 – Estudio de un cargamento de toneles hallados en el pecio de Villefranche-s-mer (la LOMELLINA, siglo XVI), Actas de la XIV Conferencia Nac. de Arqueología Argentina CNAA, Rosario, Argentine, in Arqueologia argentina en los inicios de un nuevo siglo, cap.XXV, p.307 a 323.

Ciciliot Furio, 2000 – Della Lomellina e del suo legname, dans Navis, n°2, p.13

Guérout  Max, 1993 – La coupe de la Lomellina, dans Un goût d’Italie, catalogue de l’exposition Argilla 93, Aubagne,. p. 48.

Guérout  Max, Rieth Eric, 1998 – The wreck of the Lomellina at Villefranche-sur-mer, in Excavating ships of war, Oxford University Publication, Oxford, p.38-50.

Guérout  Max, 2000 – L’épave de Villefranche-sur-mer, dans Conservation-restauration des oeuvres d’art : 30 ans d’activité d’ARC-Nucleart, Grenoble, p.76-78.

Guérout  Max, 2002 – La Lomellina, dans Bilan scientifique du DRASSM 2001, Paris,  pp. 79-80.

Guérout  Max, 2005 – Il rivestimento in piombo della nave « Lomellina » dans Pratiche e linguaggi – Contributi a una storia della cultura tecnica scientifica – Gênes, p. 9-26

Guérout  Max, 2007 – La Lomellina , une nave génoise de la Renaissance, dans Sauvé des Eaux, (dir. Pierre Vaudaine, ARC-Nucleart), Villeurbanne , p.118-126.

Guérout  Max, 2009 – L’épave de la Lomellina, dans ARCHEOMAP (Archaeological managment policies), Palerme, pp.83-94.

Guérout  Max, 2014 – Epave de la Lomellina (1516). Système d’épuisement des eaux de cale, dans Archeologia Postmedievale, n°18.

Rieth Eric, 1991 – L’épave du début du XVIème siècle de Villefranche-sur-Mer, Carvel Construction Technique, Oxbow Monographs, 12, Reinders, R & Paul, K. (eds.), Oxford, p.47-55.

Rieth Eric, 1991 – L’emplanture du grand mât de l’épave du début du XVIème siècle de Villefranche-sur-Mer : un exemple d’emplanture de tradition méditerranéenne, in Medieval ships and the Birth of Technological Societies, vol. II, Villain-Gandossi, C., Busutti, S. & Adal, P. (eds.), Malta, p. 179 à 196.

References on the Internet

PERSÉE Archaeonautica n°9 – Monogaphie : M. Guérout, E. Rieth, J.M. Gassend , Le navire génois de Villefranche,  un naufrage de 1516 ? 

Publications en ligne de Max Guérout sur HAL : Emplanture du grand-mât : Système d’épuisement des eaux : Apparaux de manœuvre : Doublage de la coque : Gréement :  Structures internes de soutien des châteaux avant et arrière : L’artillerie

Publications de  Arnaud Cazenave de la Roche en ligne sur


Site Compte rendu de fouille 1982 Compte rendu de fouille 1983 Compte rendu de fouille 1984 Compte rendu de fouille 1985 Compte rendu de fouille 1986 Compte rendu de fouille 1987 Compte rendu de fouille 1988 Compte rendu de fouille 1989 Compte rendu de fouille 1990