March 7, 2014
by James Miles
During the 2013 excavation season I completed a number of laser scan models of the site, adding to the already completed laser scan models collected in 2012 at the Palazzo Imperiale.
The main focus of the 2013 season was trialling a new scanner, the Faro Focus 3D, to see how the advancements in scanning time and accuracy could aid our recording of the site.
In total I was able to record 250 individual scans over a three week period, that culminated in precise recordings of the Palazzo Imperiale, notably Building 1, the cryptoporticus on the western façade of the complex, and the storage rooms on its southern side overlooking the Trajanic basin, and the 2013 excavations within Building 8 – which was completed by the staff and students of the Portus Field School. In addition the Terme della Lanterna was completely scanned.
The Faro focus, when compared to the Leica Scanstation Two and C10 previously used on site, allowed for a far greater data collection rate. In the 2012 I was able to capture 57 scans over a two week period using the C10 and was thus limited to certain sections of the site as I simply didn’t have the time to record them.
The ability to create a 360 degree laser scan model within one scan in 10 minutes at an accuracy of 3mm at a 10m range, greatly helped the team at Portus in recording the position of buildings and in identifying key architectural features that would otherwise have been missed using traditional means.
The use of laser scanning allows for a lasting representation of the site as it currently is, in turn allowing future researchers to study the site, without having to travel there. It likewise proved useful in recording the excavation process, with key areas of the 2013 excavation recorded during and after to save time in documenting the entirety of the site using simple 2D drawings.
The 2013 scanning work also re-examined past scanning that took place and with a newer, faster and more accurate laser scanner, it was decided to make updated models of the 2007 scans completed by the University of Southampton’s Geography department. The Faro Focus offered a greater point density within the overall scan model and therefore the newer model is at a high resolution. The scanner, likewise enables better calibration of colour within the scan data, creating a model that is both accurate in terms of spacing and texture which adds to the overall realistic element needed for our study of the site.
There is more work to be done at Portus, with more areas to be recorded, but 2013 saw the first use of the Faro Focus 3D and we hope over subsequent years, that we will be able to benefit from this great tool to create a full reconstruction of the site as it currently is.
Below are a few examples of the already completed scan work.
February 27, 2014
by Karl Potisepp
As large-scale data processing becomes easier and more affordable to everyone, so too increases the temptation to try and use new technologies and methods to reduce the amount of manual labor that usually comes with classifying and categorising big data collections. With textual data, the techniques of extracting useful information from unstructured data have already been more or less established. With image-heavy data sets – like the Portus photos – we have to turn to image processing methods such as object detection and text recognition, which unfortunately are still very unreliable and in most cases do not stand up to a comparison with a human doing the work.
January 22, 2014
by Roberta Cascino
The Portus Project, comprising the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma, the British School at Rome and the University of Southampton, has commissioned Franco Mapelli to give a visual interpretation of the Archaeological Park of the Trajanic Port. This exhibition is made up of 30 large-scale photographs through which the photographer focuses on the relationship between archaeological remains and nature. The catalogue, published by Quodlibet, shows that Portus is not only a fascinating archaeological site, but also a place of extraordinary natural beauty.
The exhibition will take place at the British School at Rome with the opening on Monday 3rd February 2014, 18:30. From then on it will be open Monday to Saturday 16.30 – 19.00, until the 15th February.
Nello scenario del parco risaltano, sullo sfondo dell’azzurro o del grigio del cielo, due elementi cromatici decisivi: i rossi dei resti archeologici, i verdi della natura e, quel che è più importante, il rapporto a volte acceso a volte tenue fra i due, condizionato da ulteriori elementi, transitori, quali la veste stagionale e la luce nei vari momenti della giornata. Il lavoro a Portus si concentra in gran parte su questo binomio: presenze archeologiche e natura. Le imponenti rovine e la conoscenza della loro passata funzione colpiscono per prime, ma poi il verde, il ruolo che la natura svolge nell’accompagnarle, emerge con forza. Dare peso alle due presenze, non necessariamente nella ricerca di un equilibrio, anzi a volte privilegiandone una e relegando l’altra a sfondo, è stato il motivo conduttore di questa serie. (Ottobre 2013, Franco Mapelli)
January 19, 2014
by Kristian Strutt
Between May and December last year I found myself working for quite a period of time on the Portus survey and excavations. The research and practical elements of the project were, as ever, thrilling, involving a large team of individuals from different backgrounds interested in different aspects of the archaeology of the site and surrounding landscape, and on the different approaches and methods applied as part of the project.
With the work for 2013 finished, and lots of more exciting prospects to look forward to in 2014, it seemed like a good moment to highlight some of the posts from last year.
In July, some of the work of the excavation, including excavation and recording of rooms in the Imperial Palace, were recorded in two posts:
In addition to the summer fieldwork, the writing up of the Portus and Isola Sacra geophysics was continued in the autumn. As a result of this I posted a blog looking at some of the issues of data analysis and interpretation, with reference to the GPR and ERT surveys at Portus, and the magnetometry at the Isola Sacra:
Finally at the end of November, a short season of ERT survey was carried out across the necropolis and canal on the Isola Sacra to the south of Portus:
Results are being written up at the moment together with the Isola Sacra geophysics. More posts will follow in the spring and summer.
January 8, 2014
by Simon Keay
It was very heartening to see that the National Geographic Espana, which is celebrating its 125th Anniversary, voted the results of our 2013 Portus Field School excavations, which were presented at a public lecture at Rome in November, as one of the ten principal archaeological finds of 2013. This is a great tribute to all the staff and students who were involved in the project.
You can read a blog post about this on the National Geographic Espana website.
January 5, 2014
by Simon Keay
As we enter a new year of research and education focused on Portus I thought I would flag up some wider activities from last year relating to the site, its hinterland and wider networks.
The first of these is our new ERC funded project. In October 2013 the European Research Council announced that a bid that I had submitted to the Advanced Grant scheme for a project to the value of €2.49 million (£2.1 million) had been successful.
The aim of the project is to study a large network of Roman Mediterranean ports, including Portus, from Turkey in the east, to Spain in the west. I, in collaboration with my colleague, Professor Pascal Arnaud (Université Lyon2 La Lumière), will be leading this “Roman Mediterranean Ports project” and analyzing 31 ports in nine different countries with colleagues from a range of key European institutions and Universities. The project, which is due to start on the 1st February 2014, will analyze the sites using a combination of geophysical surveys (including ground penetrating radar), data from satellite imagery, geoarchaeological studies and the study of ancient texts and inscriptions. Crucially the project will bring together a broad range of expertise – broad in terms of discipline, and also the location of the researchers and the sites studied.
The second of these was the first meeting of a new research initiative into the Tiber Delta being coordinated by the Ecole Francaise de Rome, the British School at Rome, the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma, the CROMA of the Universita di Roma Tre held in 2013. The event was entitled “Roma, Tevere, Litorale. 3000 anni di storia, le sfide del future”. You can read a piece by me on hypotheses.org that looks at some of the future challenges to our understanding of Portus, as well as pieces by other participants at the event.
- Hypotheses.org blog post entitled “Porto, sfide alla nostra conoscenza per il futuro“
- Details of ERC project grant funding
- Press release relating to ERC project
- Interview with Simon Keay about the project on the ICAC website – “S’han d’estudiar els ports del Mediterrani com una unitat”
January 3, 2014
by Penny Copeland
At the moment we are working through preparation of drawings for the publication of Portus in both a book and online resource. The site is so big that the drawings are causing a particular headache. How can you show the detail of a building that is over 100m long on a piece of paper that will probably be only 297mm wide/long? We will hope to have digital versions that everyone can see in some form, but at the moment, to give an idea of the problem, half of one of the long elevations of Building 5 is 1.1m long and only 10cm high at a scale of 1:20! The figure below (work in progress) gives an idea of the problem. Solutions include providing an online vector version, perhaps via SVG, downloadable drawing files, and also offering tiled raster versions. We are looking into all the options, with simplicity being the key factor.
We also have the dilemma of what to show in the drawings – phasing to help the viewer understand the development of the site and the changes to the buildings over time, or materials which show the different methods of construction (and some of these methods do not change much overtime). We can pretty much rule out showing both in one conventional drawing except incidentally i.e. if we have a wall of opus reticulatum, the diamond shapes of the tufa bricks up against the more normal Roman shaped enclosing bricks will indicate clearly the type of construction for that wall, even when they are both the same colour. Again companion digital data should provide a solution, and also allow more easy re-use of the information for example as part of future conservation and excavation activities on site. Another interesting aspect we are exploring in this area is how best to connect paper publications to digital supporting materials – something the project team have been discussing with the Archaeology Data Service for a while. As ever, we welcome suggestions.
January 2, 2014
by Ferréol Salomon
In 2013, geoarchaeological research at Portus continued in order better to understand the configuration of the harbour itself and its connection to Ostia and Rome by waterways. This work was funded by the Research Innovation Fund of the University of Southampton.
Coring the harbour basins
On July 2013, three cores were drilled in front of the Grandi Horrea di Settimio Severo at the centre of Portus. The main aim of this work was to reconstruct the extension of the basins from the Claudian period to the Trajanic period. More precisely, the aim was to determine (1) if this central part of Portus was originally included in the basin of Claudius and subsequently filled and built-up, or (2) if the basins and the access channel to the Trajanic basin had always been excavated around the edge of this area of the Grandi Horrea. The same hypothesis has been tested elsewhere at Portus: in the Great Horrea of Trajan between the darsena and the access channel to the Trajanic basins (Goiran et al., 2012 ; Bukowiecki and Panzieri, 2013) and near the Palazzo Imperiale, between the Claudian and Trajanic basins (Goiran et al., 2008; Keay and Paroli, 2011; Salomon, 2013).
Coring the canal
On November 2013, a collaboration between the University of Southampton, French institutions (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique UMR-5133, and Association Nationale de la Recherche) and the Soprintendenza Speciale per I beni Archeologici di Roma allowed us to drill three cores across a hypothesised huge canal between Portus-Ostia in the Isola Sacra discovered a few years ago by magnetic survey (Keay and Paroli, 2011). Palaeoenvironmental analysis will allow us to investigate the hypothesised canal, in order to reveal its depth and functional characteristics, and potentially also to provide dates for its use. This coring analysis have been complemented by a geophysical survey (Electrical Resistivity Tomography), carried out by Kristian Strutt of the University of Southampton and the geophysicists of the British School at Rome, in order to determine the profile of this feature.
Cores have been transported to the University of Southampton and are currently being analysed by myself as part of my postdoctoral research in the Department of Archaeology, as part of the Portus Project directed by Simon Keay. Analyses are taking place in the palaeo-environmental Laboratory in the department of Geography directed by the Prof. Tony Brown.
Bukowiecki, E., and C. Panzieri (2013). “Portus.” Chronique des activités archéologiques de l’École française de Rome . doi:10.4000/cefr.935.
Goiran, J.-P., F. Salomon, E. Bukowiecki, and G. Boettoc(2012). “Portus.” Chronique des activités archéologiques de l’École française de Rome. http://cefr.revues.org/267.
Goiran, J.-P., H. Tronchère, P. Carbonel, F. Salomon, H. Djerbi, C. Ognard, G. Lucas, and U. Colalelli (2008). “Portus, La Question de La Localisation Des Ouvertures Du Port de Claude : Approche Géomorphologique.” Mélanges de l’Ecole Française de Rome Chronique, no. 121–1 ): 217–228.
Keay, S., and L. Paroli (2011). Portus and Its Hinterland: Recent Archaeological Research. Archaeological Monographs of the British School at Rome 18. London: British School at Rome.
Salomon, F. (2013). “Géoarchéologie du delta du Tibre : Evolution Géomorphologique holocène et contraintes hydrosédimentaires dans le système Ostie – Portus.” PhD Thesis, University Lyon 2, .
December 31, 2013
by Graeme Earl
Viewers in the UK will be able to watch a documentary focused on Portus tonight. The documentary called Rome’s Lost Empire will be on BBC Four at 9:45pm GMT:
“Dan Snow attempts to use the latest satellite technology to reveal the secrets of the Roman Empire. Together with space archaeologist Sarah Parcak, Dan sets out to identify and then track down lost cities, amphitheatres and forts in an adventure that sees him travel through some of the most spectacular parts of the vast empire. Cutting-edge technology and traditional archaeology help build a better understanding of how Rome held such a large empire together for so long.”
The documentary was first broadcast last year and was produced in close collaboration with the Portus Project.
In the first few months of 2014 we will be releasing free learning materials that include broadcast and additional footage from the Rome’s Lost Empire documentary. We are very keen to share the experience we have working at Portus and on the material recovered from the site. Using a variety of learning technologies and by providing access to research data created by the Portus Project we hope to give everyone the opportunity to uncover Roman history for themselves. Sign up for the Portus Project Newsletter in order to be kept up to date as these are made available.
We will also be providing a more formal online learning experience in 2014 via the Portus MOOC. The @portusmooc will be run with @futurelearn and will launch next year. You will be able to register from early in 2014 and should sign up for the Portus Newsletter and follow @PortusMOOC for updates. The MOOC will last six weeks with three hours content per week, plus optional study. It will focus on how we work at Portus and what the site tells us about the roman Mediterranean and imperial Rome itself. The MOOC will provide access to Portus Project research data, which was funded by the AHRC and the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma. In this way the MOOC will encourage real archaeological activities by learners. The MOOC will reflect the international collaboration and funding of the Portus Project, including the latter’s close links to Italian institutions and The British School at Rome. We also hope to organise one or more events at the University of Southampton and elsewhere to allow MOOC participants to meet with other students and the people developing the MOOC.
Viewers of the documentary, and participants on the MOOC or in our other online learning activities can also apply to attend the Portus Field School.
Filming of Simon Keay for Rome’s Lost Empire
December 23, 2013
by Simon Keay
We are looking for a specialist in Roman and/or Maritime archaeology of the Roman Mediterranean at the post-doctoral level to form part of the ERC funded Roman Mediterranean Ports project team for a period of four years from February 2014.
You will be researching, recovering and integrating a range of published and unpublished data to compile a web-based port resource. Working with the project team, you will study the layouts of Roman ports, and their efficacy, the organization of commercial activity at Roman ports, and the evidence for hierarchies within the various Mediterranean port systems.
You will have experience of some or all of the following: basic geomorphology, satellite imagery, the archaeology of Roman ports, archaeological fieldwork, proficiency with standard computing tools; you will also have some familiarity with foreign languages.
Further details on the Southampton jobs site.