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 and the Soprintendenza Speciale per il Colosseo, il MNR e l’Area Archeologica di Roma.

The project built upon an extensive geophysical survey of the port and 5 years of programmed excavation (between 2007 – 2012) supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Soprintendenza Speciale per il Colosseo, il MNR e l’Area Archeologica di Roma.

In 2013 the project established an international field school for the study of Roman ports and archaeological excavation. Applications for the 2018 season have now opened (Portus Project Fieldschool 2018).

Why Portus?

Portus was the great maritime port of imperial Rome and nexus of the empire’s trading economy.  Understanding Portus enables 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. Together with the University of Cambridge, 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 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.

Scientific Directors:

Director: Simon Keay (BSR Research Professor in Archaeology / University of Southampton)
Co-directors: Graeme Earl (University of Southampton) and Martin Millett (University of Cambridge)


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

Click above to view the presentation given on 17 November 2015 in which Simon Keay discusses with Grant Cox and Janet DeLaine the new 3D modelling work that has been undertaken as part of The Portus Project.