Peter Wheeler

Peter Wheeler

I am a researcher at the University of Southampton and an educator on @UoSFLPortus. Interested in all things visual and web technologies

Location Southampton


  • Hi both, as it is part of their degree there are a number of projects for choose from. Including one close to Southampton which is free. Each project is heavily subsidised for all the students but there is a fee to be paid depending on the project.

  • Thank you for your kind comments Juliet.

  • Thanks Dragana. I learn something new!

  • Hi, yes those are the months that archaeological and conservation work is carried out on site. I am not sure exactly why they are closed though. We are unaffiliated with this site so I am not sure whether the information is totally correct. According to this page it is recommended to book: Anyway, I...

  • Hi David, thanks for completing the survey. Dragana will gladly answer any questions you may have relating to the fieldschool. Please use her email that is provided on the application process page and she will get back to you as soon as she can. Thanks, Peter

  • Hi Sheila, yes it is possible. You can visit part of the site that is own my the state and where we are able to work. You should be able to find all the information you need here: . As it says, if you wish to have a guided tour then it is recommended to book. Peter

  • Thank you all for your kind comments. It's been a pleasure to guide you all through the course and try to be as insightful as possible. Portus is a very unique place and I am glad that we can share its wonders with as many people as possible. I hope you follow the exploits of the Portus Project in the future our work continues. You can do so here on the...

  • Hi Juliet, hopefully this will live up to the mark! See my comment below to June with regards to the Hadrian's Wall course. Enjoy the course! Peter

  • Hi Pattie, you're very welcome to participate in the field school! It is running this year in June and coordinated by Dragana. It caters for everyone of different backgrounds so no archaeological experience is necessary. You'll be able focus on any of the topics that you have seen during the course so it isn't all just about digging in the field. You can find...

  • Yes, it most like would have been an aqueduct of some substantial size. We have evidence in Building 3 (see step 6.4) and the adjacent rooms of the Imperial Palace for lead piping. It is quite possible that these connected to the cisterns to form a water system. Perhaps for use in the nearby latrines (step 6.3).

  • Re Opus Sectile: you probably saw it a few times without noticing. It is basically a type of mosaic flooring that we find. A very good example from Ostia is on our Flickr: The mosaic is made up of thousands of tesserae. An example from our own finds at Portus:

  • Hi Catherine, good question. On current evidence we think that the cistern would have stored water for use in the Imperial Palace and or perhaps the dockside area that it resides on. Water would not have come from the aqueduct. It most likely collected run off water using some sort of system, though we are not quite sure of that yet.

  • Hi Susan, I hope you are better and that you can enjoy the course even if you're starting late. Best, Peter

  • Hi Nancy, yes it counts characters. We are not looking essays so short and succinct are the best approach. Alternatively you can write the first half of your comment and then use the reply feature to add the second. Though really, no need to go to such length. Best, Peter

  • Hi Fotini, yes the subtitles for the videos are created automatically by computer. In general I think it does a fantastic job but sometimes even it gets confused.

  • Hi Donna and Brendan, in response to your surprise at there being a lack of accommodation I'll quote something the undergraduates hear quite a few times during their studies - "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence". That is to say that just because we have not found such evidence does not mean it is not there. We may not have looked in the right...

  • Just for your information, the monographs of work done by the Portus Project are published by Oxbow books. The first: and second: Though the second does contain a number of Italian papers.

  • HI Judi, I think what you describe in this comment is exactly what we wish to achieve in this course. It is important for everyone to have their own ideas and understanding of Portus. Providing this course has hopefully allowed for others to use the archaeological evidence we have so far to enlighten themselves about a very important port in the Roman world....

  • I learn something new...

  • It depends on whether the finds are going to be studied by a specialist. A large proportion of them are kept at the BSR, which can then be accessed by the specialists. To my knowledge they are stored in large sheds/storage containers.

  • Hi Sue, some great questions there. First, yes it is a database system that is openly available. That means any project could use the software to create their own database. The database itself is stored at a number of locations for backups. The one we use on site is local because the internet reception is not very good on site. This then get backed up after...

  • Good question, Brian. Yes, each tray is tagged and marked with a single context number. What you see on the wash bed is from a few trays of the same context, so no pottery gets mixed up. Once dried, they are then placed back in the same trays and brought back to the casale (the finds hut) .

  • It's from hunting that the Duke would have done when he owned the land. As far as I know there was no real fighting in the area during WW2.

  • Sorry David, unfortunately that is the reality of the archaeological evidence that we have. These are the types of finds that come out of the ground during our excavations. And these are the exciting pieces! They provide us with a lot of information.

  • In archaeology it is referred to as sherds, short for potsherds. Shards has become an alternative as its a more popular word - meaning a sharp piece of something, like glass.

  • Good question. We don't quite know what kind of activity there was around the site prior to Claudian harbour building. Pottery sherds of cerca 4-3 century BC were found in the 2005 survey in the area between the Hexagon and the Tiber, and excavations of the Via Campana further east have turned up material of similar date. So some activities took place at the...

  • Hi Patricia, sorry for the late reply. Yes, everyone is very friendly and they support each other in learning. The fieldschool is indeed an annual event. It is running this year in June. It is run by the fantastic Dragana and is for everyone of different backgrounds so no archaeological experience is necessary. You can find out more here:...

  • Hi June, welcome to the course. I know Hadrian's Wall course was very good so I hope you enjoy Portus as much. You might be interested in the document that I created at the end of week showing the related steps between the two courses. It's here for your convenience:

  • @StevenBliss great question. I think these theories are still being worked on at the moment so I actually don't really know. In reality theories can change a number of times over a short periods. These datasets help that process by allowing Simon, Dragana or Fabrizio (you'll meet him later) to review the archaeological evidence accurately and consistently and...

  • Hi Lynne, glad you enjoyed this week. Thanks for highlighting that error. The video transcripts are automatically created I think but I will try to get it changed. It is correctly spelt in the PDF transcript.

  • @johannaburfitt-williams sorry, sometimes its hard to distinguish humour in these comments. I know, being from Ireland, that the Irish migrants are quite susceptible to it when they travel to Australia on their 2 year work visas. There has been quite a spike in recent years.

  • Hi both and below to Judi. Yes I agree that the Kubity was an excellent way to view models in the Rome course. Although in theory we could use such a feature it would be quite an expense to implement, especially for just one or two steps here. Secondly, Grant's models are actually quite complicated and large compared to those you see in the Rome course. They...

  • If I remember rightly, some of the analysis done suggested that it would have been timber framed and tiled, as concrete may have been too heavy to support.

  • Very well spotted Hugh, I honestly don't have an answer for you. I was always certain it was 12 bays and I know there is Building 7 in close proximity to the north which we do not really understand the function of and its relationship to Building 5. But yes, I see your confusion. I'll try to get an answer for you.

  • You're most welcome, happy to help.

  • Hi Johanna, it's definitely not irrelevant. We take health and safety seriously on site. That includes wearing appropriate clothing and protection. Everyone is told to bring hats and sunscreen to site everyday. Obviously we can't force them to wear it but we advise them and most take heed. It can get very hot during the day so we use the parasol pines (you see...

  • Hi Dorothy, good question. In short, no I don't think we can say there is. There are so many factors that contribute to the depth of soil that you cannot really relate one place to another. Regardless, we wouldn't use the depth of soil to distinguish two different contexts. The ways described in the articles would be far more reliable and give us a better...

  • We still have nearly two full weeks to go, Betty. I wouldn't say nearly finished! The best is yet to come.

  • Great question Colin. We discuss the decline of Portus in the last few weeks so you'll get a more detailed explanation from Simon and Dragana. But for now, perhaps think of the opposite cycle of events - the decline of Rome leading to the silting up of the basins. Maintaining and running a huge infrastructure like Portus would take considerable organisation,...

  • We at the project have mixed reactions to this video. On the one hand it is visually quite nice and does give a good sense of the overall size of Portus, especially for a visitor. On the other hand pretty much all the buildings and the layout of the port are extrapolated from Gismondi plan's of the 1930s. Simon speaks about these in step 1.14 and you can see...

  • Hi Brendan, sorry I missed this. Here is a quick video where Dragana talk a little bit more about slaves and work force.

  • Welcome to the course Inibokum. Glad you could join us. Will definitely be a little different from business management.

  • Hi Judi, yes they were. They were undergraduates completing an essential part of their degree course. They must complete a certain amount of weeks of fieldwork after their first year of study.

  • Hi Donna, we have actually tried and others have too. With very mixed results. One of the main reasons being, soil and dirt do not go well with iPads! We did do experiments using normal ink pens that would also track the hand movements while writing. It meant that we could take digital copies of some record sheets without having to photocopy them.

  • Christine, appreciate your kind comments. See my reply to Lodewijk below.

  • Lodewijk, thanks for your kind comments. I am glad you're enjoying the course. We appreciate that everything is online here so no the same as being there yourself. I don't know if you saw at the start of the course but the Portus fieldschool is running again this year. It really is an excellent school and will certainly allow you to get hands on with what we...

  • Hi Ruth, good question. But unfortunately not. It's a bit technical but I will try to explain. LiDAR data is made up of millions/billions of triangles. These all come together to form the 3D image that you see in the image. The main premise of LiDAR is that a scanner sends out a laser and records the time it takes to hit the ground, reflect and come back....

  • Hi Ineke, the building that you see below the Mag Severo (to the right of the big black blob) is the casale. It was the Duke's hunting lodge I believe when he owned and landscaped the area. It is now owned by the state and is the HQ for our field seasons.

  • @SusanBiddle that's no problem. The Roman road is the faint diagonal line that runs through the middle of the image. From the outer curve of the river south through the fields before its lost in the big white field at the bottom of the photo.

  • It's ok to get questions wrong in the quiz, Colin. You can always go back and retake it and hopefully learn from your mistakes.

  • Hi Kiril, please do not apologize for not knowing something. I am sure there are many things that you know about economics that I do not. The answer to your question is kind of both. Some of the equipment is, as you say, quite expensive. The lasers scanners which are the most expensive are rented from an external company and paid for by the project funds. The...

  • Susan, if you look at the very bottom of the page, Matthew has annotated a portion of the Period 2 plan to show the different views of the CGI images above. There you will see the Terraza is marked.

  • Thanks Samantha. Well done for spotting the canal and you are correct about the elongated oval being the possible island. I presume you have seen my list of similar steps between Hadrian's Wall and this course that I posted at the end of Week 2? We have a very similar feature on the Portus tour website if you wish to have a look:...

  • Hi David, I think Simon means that large wooden poles would have been placed into the holes. These could have had wooden cladding attached that the docking ships would have rested against, protecting the wooden hull against the concrete mole. Today you often see old car tyres hanging over the side of seal walls to do the same job.

  • Hi all, for anyone who wants to read more on the aerial photography that is done at Portus, here are some blog posts by Stephen and James from our website:

    Unmanned Aerial Vehicles at Portus

    Aerial Photogrammetry at Portus


  • Hi Angela, well spotted! The canal in the lower right corner is a modern drainage canal built when the basin was dredged and refilled in the previous century. It has no ancient relevance so we do no mark it on the maps. The same with the one in the top left. I am not exactly sure but it seems to be a drainage channel connected with the airport...

  • Very good idea, Gina

  • Hi Colin, I think that is a very good point. Perhaps before this decade is over a lot of what is presented here could then be superseded with new hypotheses, new information.

  • Sorry, Angela, they changed the web location. I have updated it in the text to be the same as what Dragana gives above.

  • Great question, if you haven't seen it Dragana made a comment below about this topic:

  • In brief, where ancient human remains are found a forensic anthropologist (a subdiscipline of physical anthropology) would be of more use. A forensic pathologist is a medical professional and their general focus is on soft tissue (organs and body fluid) to establish a cause of death. Whereas the forensic anthropologist's general focus is on bones.

  • Hi Martha. Much of Portus is still in private hands of the Cesarini family. I am not exactly sure when they came to purchase the land but it has been in their possession for a number of centuries. They still have a family home ajoining to one side of the hexagon, the first image above showing part of that in the background. In the early 1970s a section (the...

  • Hi James, welcome to the course. I am glad you enjoyed the Hadrian's Wall course. As both courses are running simultaneously at present I have put together a table of similar steps. You can find these at the end of step 2.21 or here:

  • That is really because the countryside you see is very much parkland, landscaped in the early 20th century. It is a very nice place to just walk through, even without the archaeological remains.

  • I understand and don't worry, in the later weeks of the course we look into more of the topics you may be interested in. We focus more on the specific buildings, their function and also the people that may have lived and worked at Portus.

  • I think you have the essential point David. Narrow entrances gives opportunity to track what goes in and out of each passage. Giving greater security to the contents of the warehouse.

  • Hi Judi, I am glad that this article helped you. Please don't feel out of your depth. We don't expect you to understand the science and become an expert in a week. The main point is that perhaps you understand the basic technique and reasons why we use these techniques and how they add to our understanding.

  • Hi David and Judi, you are both correct. With the naming the of the canals. We haven't named the proposed the canal running to Ostia through the Isola Sacra as at this current time it is still not totally clear of its route and function. I think we will wait to clarify this before naming it.

  • That's no problem. It's understandable as many TV programmes do tend to trivialise these techniques and methods to being a simple click of the fingers. Geophysics and Time Team being a prime example.

  • Hi Sue, yes F is the point where we hypothesise where a canal running between Portus and Ostia could have been located.

  • Hi all, the basin was supposedly dredged in c. 1928. That date would put it around the time of the 'bonificazione' of the Tiber Delta, as part of the 19th and 20th century canalisation and drainage of the wetlands around Italy. The Trajanic Basin was 'plumbed' into the rest of the bonifica, with sluicegates on the canal running from the basin on the south-east...

  • Hi Andy, I am not sure exactly why we don't have a date for the wall. However we wouldn't use carbon dating for dating bricks. We would more than likely use thermoluminescence. I can say that carbon dating and these related techniques are not simple tasks. They are quite expensive and require samples to be sent to labs, sometimes in other countries. As far as...

  • For those of you still struggling here is a higher resolution image of the same results:
    Here is also a edited version, created by Kris, which highlights the main features.

    Hope that helps, Peter

  • Hi David, I'm sorry to hear that. But unfortunately as Dragana says we don't have any control over those aspects of the site. Each course is the same in that regard, as far as I am aware anyway. For me each notification relates to either someone liking or replying to my comment. But also if someone comments in a reply thread that I am in. I don't receive...

  • Yes I would definitely recommend our colleagues' course to anyone interested on this step or any of the maritime sections of Portus.

  • Hi all,

    This will be of special interest to those of you who are also learners on the Hadrian's Wall course. I have produced a document with a table of cross references between the Hadrian's Wall course and Portus. Here you will find the links to thematically similar steps that feature on both courses. Using the table you can see steps that cover related...

  • For those wanting to find the canal, I will come back mid-week and post a highlighted version so you can compare your own ideas with that of Kristian Strutt, the project geophysicist. Please don't worry if you're at a loss - even I struggle every time I come back to this step.

  • Some great questions there. Yes the basin would have been silted before it was concrete lined.

    For anyone else interested, this article goes into great depth about the possible reasons behind the hexagon shape. .

  • The BBC Domesday was one of the first anecdotes we were told at the start of the databases module for my masters. It's why at the Portus project we strive to always provide key standardised metadata with all digital files we produce.

  • Hi Patricia, no you didn't imagine them. The round markings in the laser scans are actually from the scan data itself. The scanner that is used to laser scan is normally mounted on a tri-pod and therefore cannot scan directly beneath where it is positioned. It therefore creates a perfectly round circle that is void of any scan data. In order to scan under the...

  • Hi Christine, you have the basic idea yes. Arches for support. They are primarily used to spread the weight outwards from above which gives greater strength.

  • @DraganaMladenović I have tried on my Mozilla and its working fine. Sorry, I am not sure what's wrong!! Anyway, Sue was referring to the Grandi Magazzini di Settimio Severo.

  • Peter Wheeler replied to [Learner left FutureLearn]

    Nice tip David!

  • By all means, Deirdre, post your piece. This section is really about exploring your own idea about how Portus would have looked - before you really get into learning the archaeological data that is available. The best thing is coming back at the end of the course and comparing and contrasting your thoughts and ideas after what you have learnt.

  • Hi Catherine, I am not sure what the exact date for this feature is but I know that it has not been excavated, so the hypothesis that it represents an early river port comes mainly from geophysics and surface collection results that was conducted over the area in the early 2000s.

  • Hi Deirdre, welcome to the course. If you need any help with the digital resources of the course then just let me know and I will try to help. I am glad you enjoyed the Compare the Maps feature.

  • Hi Althea, I am glad you enjoyed the first week. It's perfectly fine to come to a new topic and for it to take some time to make sense. Hopefully as the weeks go on you will feel more comfortable with the phrases and terms of archaeology and find something of interest to focus on. See you in Week 2. Peter

  • There is a reason for the bricking up of the portico which we discuss in Week 5 as it occurred in later periods.

  • Hi Ineke, yes the antemurale was the sea wall structure that extended north-eastwards into the Claudian basin. The Portico was the area that connected the warehares to the east (including the colonnaded road) with the seafront to the west and lay on top of the antemurale. No, we have no evidence of bridges over the canale di communicazione. The Canale di...

  • If you land or take off on the north-south runway and you're sitting on the correct side of the plane than you get a fantastic view of the site and Trajanic basin. It's quite something.

  • Ah of course, I had the impression it was a course focused purely on Ostia. Yes, I did follow the Rome course - it was very good. It's interesting that Hadrian's Wall is running again, there are many cross overs between that course and Portus. I will try to gather them together so learners on both courses can relate both course materials.

  • Would this be the slide you mean: ?

    Could I ask what device and web browser you are using?

  • Hi Janet, we look at this topic in Week 3.

  • Hi David, welcome to the course. It's perfectly fine that you aren't totally comfortable with computers. If you need any help then please ask and I will do my best to help. You don't need to access every piece of information or link we give - we just like to provide as much as possible so learners can follow up on any aspect of Portus that they find...

  • @KarenEllynDollaga You can see a full list of the emperors here:

  • Hi Ineke, I don't think Dragana means that Portus actually suffered badly, but more that it experienced or was subjected to changes during that time. Hope that clarifies.

  • Yes Simon, I agree with you there. I think we must separate the early antiquarians, who, although in their ignorance, were genuinely trying to learn more about ancient people, from those who wished to purely profit from ancient artefacts. I suppose we also need to think that perhaps in the future, archaeologists will look back and criticise our techniques...

  • Hi Helen, what course was that? Would be interesting to link to...