Data Capture: The Portus Project has worked with technology consultants and researchers to develop and evaluate various methods for capturing archaeological data. These include methods for recording buildings such as laser scanning and gigapixel imaging, and objects, including photogrammetry and Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI). We have also experimented with novel capture tools such as Microsoft Kinect and wearable cameras like Looxcie and GoPro as a way of enhancing information exchange and student involvement in the research process.
International Collaboration: International collaboration is of key importance for a project of this scope. The Italian archaeological Superintendency for Rome was a key partner at its inception and subsequently, while the British School at Rome has been a key logistical centre. In addition to these institutions, we have worked closely with colleagues at the CNRS/University of Lyon on deep coring, received advice on Roman shipping by the University of Aix-Marseille, ancient wood by Cornell University and infra-red and aerial photography by Ghent University, while expertise on a variety of Roman finds has been supplied by colleagues at research institutions in Italy.
Data Analysis and Presentation: Computer techniques have been used to inform our interpretative processes in many ways. For example, during the excavations of Building 5, a large structure of Trajanic date built for ship construction or repair, we began by integrating 3D geophysical data with that from excavation and laser scanning. This provided us with a framework upon which to build computer structural models so that we could test likely building forms. This in turn enabled us to better understand the building that we are studying and identify likely architectural comparanda. Furthermore we have undertaken the procedural simulation of this and other buildings, which have then been used to provoke discussions with colleagues about the possible uses and functions. A number of possible interpretations were then worked up by a 3D computer graphic artist. Portus has in turn been able to train students crossing these disciplinary boundaries.
Visual Representation: The Portus Project has explored the creation of alternative methods for representing interpretations of the site, and the methods employed on the project, and for delivering these online, in exhibitions, publications and on site. This has included the production of computer graphic models, and also collaboration with professional photographers and with artists. For example, Rose Ferraby produced a series of screen prints reflecting archaeological processes such as geophysics and aerial photography in use at Portus. We have also looked at early plans of the site, including that of Rodolfo Lanciani and Italo Gismondi, and are currently examining contemporary Roman representations of the port, in particular the reverse of a sestertius of AD 112-114 showing the Trajanic basin and surrounding buildings., with Bernard Woytek (Institut für Kulturgeschichte der Antike der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften).
Outreach: We have been keen to share the results of our research from the start of the Portus Project, both within the academic community and beyond. Our outreach strategy was planned around international press conferences and public lectures in Italy, France and the UK, while project results featured in a widely aired programme made by the BBC and Discovery US. All of this has raised the profile of the site and stimulated interest at the local and international level. We have hosted many guided visits by interested amateurs, academics, local landowners, school children, US and Italian university students and members of foreign academies. In the UK we have also involved local school children in the project. We were also visited by HRH Princess Alexandra in 2008, and on several occasions by HM Ambassador to Italy.
Raising Awareness of Portus: One of the academic impacts of the projects has been a raised awareness of the significance of Portus in discussions as to how Rome’s commercial and administrative influence was mediated across the Mediterranean basin. Another has focused upon the role of Computer Graphic Imagery in the archaeological interpretation process and in communicating this with interested users. Our work has also had considerable impact beyond academia. Our stakeholders have included our colleagues within the Italian Archaeological Superintendancy of Rome, with whom we are sharing practice on the recording and visualization of complex archaeological sites for the public, companies such as Microsoft Research, whose products have been trialled at Portus, and tour companies who are interested in including the site on their itineraries. The project has also facilitated the leveraging of additional research grant applications in the UK and beyond.
Knowledge Exchange: One aim of the Portus Project has been to develop and enhance collaborations between academic and other organisations and individuals. This includes the development and application of digital methods of value both to the Portus Project and to industrial, government and third sector partners. For example, we worked with L-P: Archaeology to develop and test the functionality of their new ARK database. These developments have fed into their other commercial and research contracts. The project has also worked with Microsoft Research (MSR) on areas such as data capture, research data management and publication and learning technologies.
Initiatives Arising from the Portus Project: Our interest in linking archaeological research practice to education has developed most recently with work on virtual fieldwork and online learning. This falls under the aegis of the Portus Field School, a University of Southampton initiative arising from the Portus Project. For example, we are developing tools to provide access to field learning for disabled students, in partnership with colleagues in Geology, Geography and Oceanography. Most recently we have been developing a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in partnership with FutureLearn focused on Portus, the Roman Mediterranean, and related archaeological practice.
Research Theme 4
Although people were central to the life of any port, there is very little archaeological evidence for the inhabitants of Portus, or indeed many Roman Mediterranean ports, aside from occasional tombstones. Anthropological analyses of c. 43 inhumation burials of c. 6th c AD date from our excavations points to a predominantly male population involved in heavy physical labour with a heavy carbohydrate diet - a finding borne out from analyses of 3rd c AD burials nearby. On-going oxygen isotope evidence is investigating the possible origins of these people, as well as their foodstuffs. An idea of their cultural practices is coming from the table-wares and kitchen wares that they used, as well as from chance finds of rings and other personal possessions.