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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds GRAEME EARL: Hello. We’ve made it to the final week. Now it’s time to consolidate all we’ve learned and try to develop some new ideas about Portus. We’ll study the largest and most complex building at the site, the Palazzo Imperiale– the Imperial Palace. And we’ll think about how to use the skills we’ve learned to understand this building. It was three storeys high, underwent various modifications, and had the most sumptuous rooms and fabulous finds of what was generally a very busy port. The Portus marble head came from here, and you’ve seen the laser scans of the basement levels already.

Skip to 0 minutes and 46 seconds For the next couple of hours, you can learn more about the rooms we’re excavating this season, and take part virtually in the excavation. We’ll go back to the dining room that Kris and Peter showed you in week four. You’re back in a room that once gave a spectacular view across the Claudian Basin, an opus sectile floor beneath you. And you’re imagining the sounds of the sea mingling with the practical noise of the port. Think about yourself watching porters carrying amphorae, sailors sacrificing to celebrate their safe return from Africa, someone tending the light on the Pharos perhaps. The image portrayed on the famous Torlonia relief provides you with a good starting point for thinking about this scene.

Skip to 1 minute and 36 seconds Imagining the port is what we do all the time based on the evidence that we have to hand. From now on, you will be using the skills you’ve acquired to compare different contexts, compare different finds, and develop your own theories as to how it all links together. Let’s get started.

Introducing Week Six

I can’t believe it is week six already! Hopefully, by the end of this week you will be happy working as a member of the Portus Project team, having not only contributed to discussions about work we have already done but influenced work we are planning to do in our next fieldwork in Italy.

In the video I mentioned the Torlonia relief. This is one of several likely sculptural representations of the port, created by carving away stone to leave the prominent features standing in relief. In the case of this relief, the location of the place represented is usually assumed to have been Portus. This is partly because it is recorded to have been found near the Palazzo Imperiale, but also because of the lighthouse (Pharos) in the centre of the relief. Aside from this, it shows us that there was a monumental arch and columns topped with sculptures at the port, and illustrates the different kinds of ships and boats that frequented it. If you visit the Ostia Antica website you can see these stone representations of Portus.

This week is designed to bring together your skills, and so there will be a lot of discussion and a chance to write your own piece of archaeology. You will get an update later in the week from the 2014 excavations via additional videos, and you still have time to suggest additional themes for our filming. You will then have discussions which require you to compare archaeological evidence from across the site and beyond in order to understand the Imperial Palace better. You will also think more theoretically, reflecting on your own approach to thinking archaeologically.

Finally, we will ask you will write a piece of text that says something new about the Imperial Palace complex, from your perspective. This is peer reviewed - you will submit a piece of written work which will be assessed by another learner. But don’t worry – it is a very informal process, designed to get you thinking and sharing, not to test you.

In the next step we’ll visit Dragana, Simon and Fabrizio on site to learn a bit more about the imperial palace excavations, and about the three major areas that we have focused on.

Before we do that I would like you to reflect back on our discussion in Week One one more time. Last week in the Summary of the week you wrote about a new imagined arrival at Portus. Now in this week - one that is all about bringing information together and reflecting on its biases and origins - I would like you to describe how have your ideas have changed since Week One. Is it that you know more facts? Are you thinking in different ways about the evidence? What were the influences on the things you wrote at the start of the course? Thinking critically about how we imagine and interpret the past is a big part of what archaeologists do, and it can say a lot about how we use evidence in our daily life too.


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This video is from the free online course:

Archaeology of Portus: Exploring the Lost Harbour of Ancient Rome

University of Southampton