Ancient Roman port history unveiled

July 15, 2019

Researchers successfully reconstructed anthropic influences on sedimentation, including dredging and canal gates use, in the ancient harbour of Portus - a complex of harbour basins and canals that formed the hub of commerce in the capital of the Roman Empire.

The findings suggest that the Romans were proactively managing their river systems from earlier than previously thought - as early as the 2nd century AD.

The history was reconstructed using a range of high-resolution sediment analysis including piston coring, x-ray scanning, radiocarbon dating, magnetic and physical properties and mineral composition of the ancient harbour sediments.

La Trobe University Archaeology Research Fellow and marine geologist, Dr Agathe Lisé-Pronovost, said that ancient harbours can accumulate sediments more rapidly than natural environments, which is the case of Portus built in a river delta and where sediment accumulated at a rate of about one meter per century. Applying these methods allowed researchers to date and precisely reconstruct the sequence of events of the historical port, including dredging to maintain enough draught and canal gate use.

"Dating ancient harbour sediments is a major challenge, given ports are not only subjected to weather events throughout history, but the lasting effects of human activity," Dr Lisé-Pronovost said.

"The methods we've applied have allowed us to address the dating issue and routine measurements of the sort could greatly improve chronostratigraphic analysis and water depth reconstruction of ancient harbour deposits."

Dr Lisé-Pronovost and her team encourage geoarchaeologists to implement these innovative methods to their work.
-end-
The project included researchers from ANSTO in Australia, and international collaborators in Canada and France.

The research has been published in Quaternary International.

Media contact: Marc Botoulas, m.botoulas@latrobe.edu.au, 0447 508 171

La Trobe University

Related History Articles from Brightsurf:

Reconstructing global climate through Earth's history
Accurate temperature estimates of ancient oceans are vital because they are the best tool for reconstructing global climate conditions in the past.

The colorful history of plastids
Emerging genome data provides new insight into plastid evolution.

The magnetic history of ice
The history of our planet has been written, among other things, in the periodic reversal of its magnetic poles.

Researchers map the evolutionary history of oaks
Oaks have a complex evolutionary history that has long eluded scientists.

Ancient Roman port history unveiled
A team of international researchers led by La Trobe University and the University of Melbourne have, for the first time worldwide, applied marine geology techniques at an ancient harbour archaeological site to uncover ancient harbour technologies of the first centuries AD.

The ancient history of Neandertals in Europe
Parts of the genomes of two ~120,000-year-old Neandertals from Germany and Belgium have been sequenced at the MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology.

A history of the Crusades, as told by crusaders' DNA
History can tell us a lot about the Crusades, the series of religious wars fought between 1095 and 1291, in which Christian invaders tried to claim the Near East.

The history of humanity in your face
The skull and teeth provide a rich library of changes that we can track over time, describing the history of evolution of our species.

Retrieving climate history from the ice
In the context of a major European Union project, experts from 14 institutions in ten European countries have spent three years combing the Antarctic ice, looking for the ideal site to investigate the climate history of the past 1.5 million years.

Rivers raged on Mars late into its history
A new study by University of Chicago scientists catalogued these rivers to conclude that significant river runoff persisted on Mars later into its history than previously thought.

Read More: History News and History Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.