Portus Project Geophysics

Portus from the air

The project is under the direction of Prof. Simon KeayDr. Graeme Earl, and Martin Millett and funded by the AHRC in collaboration with the University of Southampton, Cambridge University, the British School at Rome and the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma. The 3 year excavations of the Imperial Port of Rome, located near present day Fiumicino, Italy, began in 2006, although intensive geophysical survey was carried out at Portus starting in the early 2000’s by the British School at Rome in collaboration with the Archaeological Prospection Services of Southampton (APSS). Many seasons of survey have been conducted at Portus since that time, with an aim at using large-scale multi-sensor approaches to investigating subsurface features within the archaeological park. Methods used to date include: fluxgate gradiometry, electrical resistivity tomography, resistivity, ground-penetrating radar, and aerial photography including near-infared. Many people and institutions have come together to make these surveys possible, and more information can be found about them at the Portus Project website.

My involvement with Portus Project began in 2007 as a Masters student at the University of Southampton’s program in Archaeological Computing and Spatial Analysis. As I became increasingly interested in geophysical survey, and many discussions with one of my advisors Dr. Graeme Earl, it was suggested that I investigate emerging methods (at the time) for integrating large-scale multi-sensor remote sensing data at the site of Portus. As the fluxgate gradiometry data was already collected, in Spring of 2008 I set out with the BSR and APSS to conduct a 2 ha resistivity and GPR survey in the area surrounding the excavations of the 2007 season at the Imperial Palace. With the three data sets, I then explored various data fusion methods for combining and integrating the data. My involvement with the project continued after the handing in of my MSc dissertation in the Fall of 2008, as I went on to do a Research Assistantship at the BSR afterwards, and returned to the site of Portus for many more ‘seasons’ of geophysical survey during 2009 and early 2010. The project has published quite regularly on the survey methods and results, (including articles in Archaeological Prospection and various conference proceedings) and I have published on the initial results of the data fusion (see proceedings from the Computing Applications in Archaeology- CAA 2009). However I have attempted here to publish a more personal account of the process of surveying, processing, and integrating such a large-scale data set. I hope to describe (in forthcoming posts) some of the difficulties and successes in which I met during the research, with the aim of disseminating the sort of information that never quite makes it into official publications.

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