During excavations in a Late Byzantine residential block in the South Region of the urban area of Chersonesos (located in modern Sevastopol, Crimea, Ukraine), two items were recovered that are of particular interest for the study of medieval ships and sailing. One is a storage vessel (pithos) bearing a highly detailed graffito depicting two lateen-rigged ships; the other is a stone slab on which was incised a graffito of two more ships. While the dating of the graffito on the stone slab is uncertain, very clear chronological boundaries can be assigned to the graffito on the pithos, since the room in which the vessel was kept was built no earlier than the late 11th or early 12th century and destroyed by fire no later than the middle of the 13th century. The graffito of one of the ships on the pithos is particularly informative, since it accurately depicts details such as rigging and even anchors pulled up along the rails of the ship. These elements allow us to define the type of ship represented and discuss its structural elements. By comparing these graffiti to other representations of ships at Byzantine Chersonesos and elsewhere around the Black Sea, as well as to contemporary ship graffiti from the Mediterranean world, we use the iconographic information to add to the understanding of medieval boat construction, navigation, and trade in the Black Sea region.
Gordana Karović, Larissa Sedikova, Adam Rabinowitz