A new year at Portus

The New Year has begun auspiciously for all those of us involved with the Portus Project and related work. At one level, we are pushing ahead steadily with completion of the post-excavation work that will form the basis of the final reports on the project. In January, we held the first of three planned Workshops at the British School at Rome (BSR). This was organized by Christina Triantafillou and myself and was very well attended. It focused upon the chronology and building sequence of the Trajanic buildings being studied by the Portus Project(Building 5 and the Palazzo Imperiale), as well as those of French colleagues (Grandi Magazzini Traianei) at Portus, alongside major Trajanic complexes at Rome (Foro di Traiano and the Mercati Traianei, Terme di Traiano), being excavated and studied by our colleagues Roberto Meneghini, Rita Volpe, Lucrezia Ungaro, Filippo Coarelli and Massimo Vitti.

This meeting will be followed by a second workshop at the BSR in early March, in which first members of the team will present first drafts of the final versions of our CGI reconstructions of Building 5, the Palazzo Imperiale and the Grandi Magazzini di Settimio Severo will be presented to a closed group of the same specialists, as well as Janet Delaine, Giulia Boetto and Susan Walker, for critique and discussion, prior to finalizing the models. A third workshop, also in early March, will be a third and final meeting of all the Rome-based specialists working on the ceramics (including Sabrina Zampini, Roberta Cascino, Fabrizio Felici, Eduardo Scazzocchio), glass (Barbara Lepri), coins (Emanuela Spagnoli), marble (Eleonora Gasparini) and human skeletons (Walter Pantano) from the excavations, to review progress and compare results. We aim to hold a final meeting over the summer when we draw together all team members to review the results of the project, before pulling together the publications arising from the project.

A second strand to our work is close collaboration with our colleagues at the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici di Roma in the production of the official Portus website, which will feature a lot of material from the Portus Project website, including our CGI imagery and other new material. A third aspect, also in collaboration with the Soprintendenza, is continued excavation and restoration at the Palazzo Imperiale, which is shedding fascinating new light on the eastern sector of the complex – notably its architectural conception, rich decoration and, unexpectedly, a glass workshop. This will form the core of a new phase of our work at the site for the next few years, that will begin this June and July, with the independently funded Portus Field School.

Aside from all of this work, members of the team and other PhD and post-doctoral researchers based at Southampton are using ceramics and inscriptions to undertake research into aspects of the commercial relationship of Portus to other parts of the Mediterranean, in conjunction with colleagues at other institutions in an informal research network. The research has looked at the use of the semantic web in the comparison of ceramic databases, a GIS-based study of maritime-based movement across the Mediterranean, and network analyses. The first fruits of this research are published in S. Keay (ed.) (2012) Rome, Portus and the Mediterranean (Archaeological Monographs of the British School at Rome 21). A presentation of ongoing progress is to be presented to a workshop on Orbis organized by Walter Scheidel at Stanford University in February.