The Ancient Naval Ram Casting Project (15 min)


Stephen DeCasien, Texas A&M University; Christopher Dostal, Texas A&M University; and Glenn Grieco, Texas A&M University


The Ancient Naval Ram Casting Project was conducted at Texas A&M University in the Nautical Archaeology program over two years from 2021 to 2023. As the first bronze naval ram cast in over 1,500 years and the only naval ram outside the Mediterranean basin, the purpose of the experimental archaeological project was to better understand the intricate details of ancient Mediterranean naval ram production, a debated and unknown process. The focus of the project was to recreate a trireme-sized bronze naval ram based on the closest and known ancient methods. The project consisted of three major steps with each taking multiple months to complete. The first step of the project was to construct a trireme-sized ramming bow to serve as the beeswax model’s core. The bow was based on a culmination of archaeologically attested ramming bows such as those found inside the Acqualadroni, Athlit, and Egadi rams. The second step of the project involved the use of beeswax to fashion a model of a trireme-sized ram onto the false bow. Using relevant academic scholarship and personal experience working with beeswax, various methods were used to create the beeswax ram model. The final stage of the project comprised casting the entire beeswax model in bronze using the direct lost-wax casting method. Based on the initial stages of the project, it is safe to assume that in antiquity a trireme-sized naval ram required an average of 40 pounds of beeswax to create a model. It would take as many as three to four skilled craftsmen one to four working days to build one beeswax model, depending on its size and complexity. This reconstruction can better inform us about the time, manpower, and materials needed to create ancient naval rams as well as the socioeconomic implications of building ancient navies.