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Summary of the week

What did we discover this week?
GRAEME EARL: We packed a lot of science into this week. We focused on the many tools that are available for studying the landscape around Portus and within the site. These have included Kris and Lizzie, talking about geophysics, Simon on aerial photography, and Ferreol talking about sedimentological cores. Together, these have told us about the transportation systems, the past landscape, and also about the location of still unexcavated massive structures. We also studied the basins in more detail and discussed the transportation of ornamental marble, which decorated the Palazzo Imperiale. Also, the enigmatic Portus head and the columns that have been identified by underwater survey in the Fiumicino Canal south of the port.
Simon gave us an introduction to the changes that were happening in the Roman world during the later second century and how the site had been transformed at this time. One structure from this week that was very easy to see was the Severan Magazzini. This massive battery of storerooms gave us further insights into how the port worked, in terms of logistics– how goods were moved from one place to another and then organised and audited. The more we learned, the clearer it became that, not only were the buildings large and complex, but so must have been the systems that regulated their use and the many different people who worked here.
Next week, we’ll learn a lot more about the buildings these people worked in by starting to uncover the remains hinted at by the geophysics. We’ll move from hypothesis to ground truthing. Also Dragana will be back next week to introduce us to excavation methods on-site. See you in the discussions online.
We’ve reached the end of Week 3, filled with landscapes and science.
In case you were wondering, the photograph behind me in this video shows the Terrazza di Traiano, which would have been a major landmark from the time of Trajan onwards. We walk past it each day on the way to the excavations around the corner. It originally ran for a distance of just under 200m and acted as the external face of the cryptoporticus which supported the great colonnade that defined the western side of the Palazzo Imperiale. We saw the cryptoporticus in week two.
The colonnade would have acted as a magnificent point of reference for ships entering the Claudian basin, as they sought their allotted point of anchorage or docking; it would have also been a reminder of the magnificence of Roman power. Sadly, few traces of the columns remain today. However, we have attempted to produce a number of different digital reconstructions of this building over the last few years, working from the surviving remains and looking at other Trajanic buildings at Rome and elsewhere. The most recent, by Grant Cox, is shown below. On our Flickr site you can also see earlier versions produced by Gareth Beale, including an animation that shows a view of the building from the Claudian Basin.
Please do keep posting comments and queries, and I’ll see you again next week, when we’ll learn all about excavating a building and about the third and fourth century changes to the site.
CGI visualisation of the Terrazza di Traiano by Grant Cox
CGI visualisation of the Terrazza di Traiano – Grant Cox © University of Southampton
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Archaeology of Portus: Exploring the Lost Harbour of Ancient Rome

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