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This content is taken from the University of Southampton's online course, Archaeology of Portus: Exploring the Lost Harbour of Ancient Rome. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 5 seconds SIMON KEAY: So now, last week, we were looking at the excavation of buildings, large pieces of wall, expanses of floor, burials, and things of that kind. And that tells us a lot about, obviously, about the structure of the port and how it developed. But this week, we’re actually going to shift our focus a little bit and we’re going to start looking at the people at Portus. Now, we’re going to do that by focusing upon different kinds of evidence. We are going to be looking at burials. We’re going to be looking at the ceramics that are traded around the Mediterranean and which tell us about what’s coming in to the port from different parts of the Mediterranean.

Skip to 0 minutes and 48 seconds We’re going to be looking at charred seeds, which give us an idea about the environment of Portus and, perhaps, some of the food that were consumed on site or, indeed, were even traded through the site. We’re going to be looking at coins and small finds. And this kind of work is going to be introduced to you by Penny Copeland, who is our Finds Coordinator as well as being someone who’s been very accomplished in studying the innovations of our standing buildings and so on.

Introducing week five - the finds

Welcome back! This week we will be concentrating on the later years of Portus, and in particular the 5th to the 7th centuries AD. We will be studying the beautiful Basilica this week. Last week we learned about excavating this kind of structure, and recording contexts – whether excavated holes in the ground or a fragment of wall – but as you have seen it is often the finds that help us understand how those different parts of the site were used and when.

So, this week we continue our journey that has taken us from the very large scale – effectively looking at the whole Roman world via maritime networks – down to the very small scale – such as imported foodstuffs indicated by amphora sherds and charred seeds. And in between, we study the people themselves, through their personal adornments and even their bones. In week one we looked at ceramic objects as indicators of trade, and in week two you might have read about studying seeds as a part of the palaeobotany article. Last week we started looking at coins. Now this week we see how we actually learn what we know from these often rather damaged, degraded and dislocated objects.

The finds tell us an enormous amount about how the site was used, its commercial connections, and the people who lived and worked here. But we have to record and carefully analyse them first in order to explore the stories they can tell. In the rest of this week you will learn more about how we do this.

First, I’ll tell you what was happening in the Roman world in the late fifth to seventh centuries AD.


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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