von der Römischen Kaiserzeit bis zum Mittelalter

International Conference "Harbours in Space and Time"

The DFG Priority Programme 1630 “Harbours from the Roman Period to the Middle Ages” started in July 2012. Its aim is the interdisciplinary study of primarily civil harbours as highly complex systems in which ecological, logistical, economic, social, legal, military and religious subsystems overlap and influence each other. In order to evaluate the full extent and depth of the phenomenon 'harbour', these subsystems and their implications for the development of the settlements must be identified. The 15 interdisciplinary projects of the programme are working on a comparative analysis allowing harbours to be understood as system-relevant components. The results of the last conference 2015 in Kiel were published this year under the title:

Claus von Carnap-Bornheim, Falko Daim, Peter Ettel, Ursula Warnke (Hrsg.), Harbours as Objects of Interdisciplinary Research – Archaeology + History + Geosciences (RGZM – Tagungen, Band 34) Mainz 2018.

We are now at the end of the overall six-year grant period and therefore will hold an international conference at which we will discuss the final results. The conference is in cooperation with the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum and the Museum für Antike Schiffahrt in Mainz. It is titled “Harbours in Space and Time” and will be held from the 1st to the 2nd of October 2018 at the Erbacher Hof, Mainz. The conference language will be English.

The conference will include plenum lectures and different parallel sessions. The third day (3rd of October) will be devoted to a field trip to the Kaiserpfalz in Ingelheim.

The interdisciplinary sessions are the following:

  • Harbours and Environment

(Geoarchaeology, Geophysics and environmental factors)

  • Harbours are primarily established as shelter for waterborne traffic. They link maritime and terrestrial traffic networks. However, these natural conditions are seldom stable and can change, e.g. due to changing water levels or silting. If a modification of the harbour facilities was not possible, it often led to an abandonment of the site. Here, marine geosciences are capable to locate the former shoreline and give information on earlier water depths, as well as to reconstruct the very processes that changed the prevailing conditions on-site. The session will deal with the whole range of adapted geophysical methods such as geomagnetics, geoelectrics or GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar), seismic measurements, their possible interaction and their potential for harbour research and in addition with environmental factors that influence a harbor side.


  • Archaeological Features/Archaeology findings
  • This session will focus on the analysis of archaeological finds as a central instrument to investigate the importance of maritime as well as fluvial harbours for their environment. Archaeological finds render information on the quality and quantity of trade and the flow of commodities and therefore provide insights into palaeo-economic situations. Moreover, they inform us about artisanal production connected to the harbours, which supplied regional and over-regional as well as local markets with goods via shipping traffic.


  • Harbour Facilities and Infrastructur
  • This session will focus on the study of harbour facilities and their progressive development. Harbour facilities served the changing demands at the port by means of providing a sufficient water depth for mooring and the necessities for stock exchange, and thus secured the economic basis of each harbour town. Yet, a port worked not only through its harbour facilities alone, but just as well through its harbor-related logistic infrastructure in the settlement and on the sea route towards it.


  • Theories and Models
  • The aim of this session is the exploration of both theoretical and conceptual underpinnings as well as practical applications of models which help us to understand the location respectively the choice of location of harbours, their spatial and functional organisation and constructional development as well as the interaction and connectivity between harbours at the regional and over-regional levels. Such models may come (of course not exclusively) from the angles of (maritime and terrestrial) archaeology, economic history and theory, transport geography, environmental studies, complexity and network theory or history of cultures and mentalities. Also, the explanatory value of these theories and models for particular case studies shall be discussed and evaluated.   


  • Economic and traffic areas
  • Harbours were intersections for various economic and traffic areas. In order to comprehend a harbour’s potential and capacities, it is important to identify these economic areas, which could be regional or over-regional systems. The connection to traffic systems on land as opposed to on sea were a crucial point for the capacity and importance of a harbour.


  • Written and Iconographic Sources: Complementing the Material Evidence
  • The study of the material remains of harbours is obviously limited in its potential insights. Information on e.g. harbour legislation, administration, collection of duties or actual trading voyages of particular individuals remain in the dark. However, evidence of harbours from non-archaeological sources exist in a great variety in historical records from Imperial Roman times to the High Middle Ages. This session wants to encourage a revision of written sources, inscriptions, papyri and seals, along with pictorial records reflecting harbours as economic, legal, stately and cultic systems just as well as the daily harbour life.


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