Testimonials from Portus Project participants

Group photograph of excavators

The following named testimonials give a sense of the student experience at Portus. We have also collected anonymous and named survey feedback from the Portus Field School 2013. You can read the Portus Field School feedback.

Samantha Reiter

Portus Project osteo-archaeology undergraduate and postgraduate student 2007-2009 (University of Southampton, UK)


I remember the smell of oregano. The herb grew wild in the ruins. As the air warmed and the sun heated the stonework, the oregano would release its essential oils into the air until the whole excavation smelled resinous and clean. I remember porcupine quills in the soft morning dew and the burrowing snails that caused such problems for the post excavation team (their “archaeological finds” sometimes got up and crawled away…)

But the thing I remember best about the three seasons I spent in Portus was the people. It is rare to see so many different nationalities, languages and disciplines meld so seamlessly, but everyone and everything came together. It was the sort of excavation that archaeologists’ dreams are made of: great archaeology, beautiful setting and fabulous team. (Granted, the presence of actual flush toilets didn’t hurt, either!)

Frances Smith

Portus Project classics undergraduate student 2009 (University of Cambridge, UK)

Portus Project 2009The excavation at Portus really made the academic discussions I had had in lectures come alive. I had never been on an archaeological site before, and so I had no idea of the practicalities, the difficulties and the illuminations that could come from seeing a site uncovered. On our first day, Simon led us a merry dance around the site, pointing out landscape features and buildings. At first these made little sense, but as he explained what certain features might mean we began to get a feel for the possibilities of the site. It also put the interpretative and academic discussions I had previously had in lectures into context with the reality of excavation. The neat descriptions I had taken for granted were now confronted by an expanse of un-excavated parkland. And in microcosm, it was hugely rewarding to think back to the 10ft square of earth that we cleaned before digging down and eventually finding a toilet, which I spent a significant portion of the last weeks inside! I had read descriptions of Roman toilets, but seeing the physical object gave an irreplaceable level of understanding.

The technical side of excavation also gave me an insight into the onslaught of information that the archaeologist has to manipulate to make sense of, and the weapons that they have at their disposal. The 3D and computer side of archaeology that I got a glimpse of during my time at Portus demonstrated the exciting steps that archaeology is taking to make use of the new tools available. It was great to see the site and some of these techniques given airtime on the BBC, and I look forward to seeing the changes in the excavation in twenty years time – maybe the lighthouse will have been uncovered by then…

Stephen Upton

Portus Project archaeology undergraduate student 2013  (University of Southampton, UK)

StephenUThe Portus Field School is a wonderfully fantastic opportunity to gain experience in so many fields in archaeology, ranging from scientific methods such as geophysics and Laser Scanning, to more practical methods such as trowelling and pick-axeing. The opportunity to work in a small team is a great way to meet new people who can share their experiences with archaeology and can of course boost your confidence in working as a group which is so highly valued nowadays. The fieldschool makes you feel part of a family and for three weeks it is so definitely worth joining in all of the different activities. I cannot rate this experience highly enough!