The Portus Project

The Portus Project continues a very successful and long-standing research collaboration between the British School at Rome, the University of Southampton, the University of Cambridge and the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma. The principal source of funding is provided by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Why Portus?

Portus was the great maritime port of imperial Rome and nexus of the empire’s trading economy.  Understanding Portus will enable researchers to better understand how the empire operated; how it fed itself, traded within and beyond its borders and met the enormous economic demands of its huge citizenry.

The Project
The Portus Project includes the excavation of a central area within the port itself (Palazzo Imperiale). The excavation is applying an integrated suite of techniques not generally used on complex Mediterranean sites with major structural remains, including digital recording and high definition visualization.  There have also been several seasons of geophysical survey at Isola Sacra, which lies between Portus and the neighbouring river port of Ostia.

All of this work is complemented by an ongoing programme of environmental coring, undertaken in conjunction with the Jean-Philippe Goiran of the Université de Lyon. Deep cores have now been drilled at different parts of the site and the surrounding port to varying depths of between six and ten metres, enabling us to sample the changing nature of the sediments within the port and, thus, to better understand the long term environmental history of the port. Members of the team together Geert Vanderhoeven (University of Ghent) also undertook a first programme of helicopter-based infra-red photography across the whole of Portus and the Isola Sacra. These are helping provide additional new details about the layout of areas of the site associated with the excavation, as well as other key areas of the port complex as a whole.

Core Team:
Director:      Simon Keay (BSR Research Professor in Archaeology)
Co-directors:     Graeme Earl (University of Southampton),
Martin Millett (University of Cambridge) and
Angelo Pellegrino (Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma).

Collaborators: the Cooperativa Parsifal di Archeologia (Roma), the Université de Lyon (MOM), Institut Català d’Arqueologia Classica (Tarragona), the Universidad de Sevilla (Departamento de Prehistoria i Arqueologia), the Centre Camille-Jullian (Université de Aix-Marseille) and the University of Ghent.

Project funding: the Project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) of the UK with support in kind from the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma.


Portus Lecture November 2011

More Roman Ports Project links

The Portus Project


Roman Port Networks Project


Portus Project Publications

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