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(Photo Portus Project)

Research Theme 4

Although people were central to the life of any port, there is very little archaeological evidence for the inhabitants of Portus, or indeed many Roman Mediterranean ports, aside from occasional tombstones. Anthropological analyses of c. 43 inhumation burials of c. 6th c AD date from our excavations points to a predominantly male population involved in heavy physical labour with a heavy carbohydrate diet - a finding borne out from analyses of 3rd c AD burials nearby. On-going oxygen isotope evidence is investigating the possible origins of these people, as well as their foodstuffs. An idea of their cultural practices is coming from the table-wares and kitchen wares that they used, as well as from chance finds of rings and other personal possessions.

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(Photo: Geert Verhoeven/ Portus Project)

International Collaboration: International collaboration is of key importance for a project of this scope. The Italian archaeological Superintendency for Rome was a key partner at its inception and subsequently, while the British School at Rome has been a key logistical centre. In addition to these institutions, we have worked closely with colleagues at the CNRS/University of Lyon on deep coring, received advice on Roman shipping by the University of Aix-Marseille, ancient wood by Cornell University and infra-red and aerial photography by Ghent University, while expertise on a variety of Roman finds has been supplied by colleagues at research institutions in Italy.

Read more about (Photo: Geert Verhoeven/ Portus Project)

(Photo: Hembo Pagi/ Portus Project)

Initiatives Arising from the Portus Project: Our interest in linking archaeological research practice to education has developed most recently with work on virtual fieldwork and online learning. This falls under the aegis of the Portus Field School, a University of Southampton initiative arising from the Portus Project. For example, we are developing tools to provide access to field learning for disabled students, in partnership with colleagues in Geology, Geography and Oceanography. Most recently we have been developing a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in partnership with FutureLearn focused on Portus, the Roman Mediterranean, and related archaeological practice.

Read more about (Photo: Hembo Pagi/ Portus Project)

(Photo: Hembo Pagi/Portus Project)

Methodological Innovation: The challenge of tracing the history of this extensive port within the short time-frame of our projects was met by combining non-destructive survey of the area of our five buildings followed by excavation. The former approach was intended to extract the maximum information about buildings that were still buried. Topographical survey of the ground surface provided some clues, to which was added laser-scans of standing walls; the layout of structures below the surface was then picked-out using a combination of geophysical techniques. Open area excavation was then targeted upon areas most likely to answer our research questions. All of this information was captured digitally.

Read more about (Photo: Hembo Pagi/Portus Project)

(Photo: Hembo Pagi/Portus Project)

Student Involvement: The huge cost of large-scale excavations at Classical sites means that they are much rarer today than they used to be. However, the inter-disciplinary and ethical challenges inherent to these, and the range of techniques to which they are suited, means that they are ideal for training the next generation of Classical archaeologists in field and analytical techniques, as well giving them familiarity with the material culture of the Classical world. An AHRC project studentship in Roman ceramics, for example, has addressed one of our research questions and generated deep knowledge of one class of material, while excavation data have provided dissertation topics for MSc Computing students. Furthermore, countless undergraduate students from Southampton, Cambridge, Oxford, Aix-Marseille, Ghent, Roma Tre, Roma La Sapienza, Seville and Tarragona have had their first taste of Roman Mediterranean archaeology in this unique context.

Read more about (Photo: Hembo Pagi/Portus Project)

(Photo: Penny Copeland/ Portus Project)

Research Theme 5: Portus' primary role was to supply the 800,000 inhabitants of Rome with foodstuffs and the other materials. It was also a hub for re-distributing imports from other Mediterranean ports and, to a lesser extent, exporting construction material and other products from the Tiber valley. Analyses of amphorae, table and cooking wares, bricks, decorative stone and carbonized seeds from our excavations has enabled us to trace changing commercial connections to known sources across the whole Mediterranean basin, underlining the particular importance of north Africa (ceramics) and the east Mediterranean (decorative stone).  Our work has also reveal the presence of Italian products ceramics, either for use in the port or for export.

Read more about (Photo: Penny Copeland/ Portus Project)

(Photo: Portus Project)

Outreach: We have been keen to share the results of our research from the start of the Portus Project, both within the academic community and beyond. Our outreach strategy was planned around international press conferences and public lectures in Italy, France and the UK, while project results featured in a widely aired programme made by the BBC and Discovery US. All of this has raised the profile of the site and stimulated interest at the local and international level. We have hosted many guided visits by interested amateurs, academics, local landowners, school children, US and Italian university students and members of foreign academies. In the UK we have also involved local school children in the project.  We were also visited by HRH Princess Alexandra in 2008, and on several occasions by HM Ambassador to Italy.

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(Photo: Simon Keay/ Portus Project)

Research Theme 1: We have traced the structural history of Portus, from its establishment under Claudius, to its enlargement under Trajan and subsequent emperors down into the 4th c AD. Five key buildings at the centre of the port played distinctive roles in respect to the Claudian and Trajanic harbour basins and a related canal. From the early 2nd c, the three-storey Building 3 (Palazzo Imperiale) was its administrative hub and the adjacent Building 5 was the focus of ship-building or repair; the Grandi Magazzini di Settimio Severo was built at a date in the later 2nd c AD, probably for storage.

Read more about (Photo: Simon Keay/ Portus Project)

(Photo: Simon Keay/Portus Project)

Research Theme 2: The later 5th and the 6th c AD witnessed the gradual siltation of the outer Claudian basin, a contraction in the extent of the port, a transformation of the function of its buildings and in the volume and range of its traffic and cargo. In the 470s, the five buildings under study were enclosed within a defensive wall designed to protect the inner Trajanic basin from seaborne attack, possibly from Vandal pirates. Buildings 5 and 3 were systematically demolished in the mid to later 6th c, probably by the Byzantine authorities, and burials began to proliferate amongst the ruins.

Read more about (Photo: Simon Keay/Portus Project)