from the Roman Period to the Middle Ages

Sections within the SPP

The SPP is based on the fundamental principles of archaeological and historical research. In order to fulfil the aims of the programme, the work will be divided into four sections, each according to the methodological requirements of the individual disciplines. The resulting intersections will provide the basis for interdisciplinary collaboration.

Section 1: Geophysical surveying and archaeological fieldwork

The primary collection of data for the SPP consists of two basic components: experimental geophysical surveying and archaeological fieldwork. For this purpose, the whole range of geophysical methods comes into play (magnetic, electric, etc.). It has not been possible, so far, to survey shallow-water and shoreline areas by geophysical methods with the customary accuracy and resolution: an attempt will therefore be made to improve the measurement methods. This distinctly experimental approach is subsequently expected to permit the identification of specific harbour locations in what is today a limnetic milieu.

The tried and trusted methods of archaeological fieldwork − surveying of identifiable above-ground and under-water features; field walking and exploration by divers; excavation of trial trenches − are to be used both to investigate unknown harbour sites and to re-examine sites that are already known but have not yet been adequately researched. To a limited extent, targeted small-scale excavations may also be undertaken to clarify structural contexts and chronological questions.

Section 2. Evaluation of archaeological features

Following the principles of fundamental research, selected harbours known from archaeological and/or historical sources are to be reappraised: the relevant records are in many cases already available in archives, museums or other archaeological institutions. The aim is to undertake a constructive analysis of the harbour structures against the background of the building demands of maritime technology and including the land-side infrastructure necessary for the smooth operation of a harbour. In addition, the evaluation of selected finds will allow conclusions to be drawn regarding the transshipment of goods. Detailed studies of the find material from harbours in various regions and time periods will permit the identification of long-distance trading contacts and a chronological quantification of the extent of the trade. In this section, in particular, can harbours be seen as a European phenomenon and this presupposes an internationalisation of the research project.

Section 3: Geoarchaeological research

Geoarchaeology is an essential aspect of the investigation of coastal landscapes today. The results, primarily from the analysis of core samples, can give an exact picture of the landscape and how it changed over the course of time. In the context of our research here, data relating to silting processes, tectonic uplift and subsidence as well as changes in sea level, especially as can be observed in the Mediterranean area, can contribute to greater transparency by virtue of being datable events. This opens up excellent opportunities for interdisciplinary cooperation in archaeological research. In addition to implementing geoarchaeological research in individual archaeological projects, studies of a supraregional character could also contribute to a better assessment of the underlying conditions affecting the individual coastal landscapes and regions.

Section 4: Analysis of historical and iconographical sources

There exists a great variety of historical records on harbours, from Imperial Roman times to the High Middle Ages. These are an indispensable research tool in the interdisciplinary analysis of harbours. On the one hand, this section deals with written sources, especially inscriptions and the media of everyday communication such as papyri, which reflect harbours as legal and economic systems and the scene of actual trading activity. Pictorial records, on the other hand, convey an idea of the appearance of the harbours and their associated structures in different periods. This section offers an opportunity to collate and edit published information that was previously widely dispersed and make it available to scholars of various disciplines. In particular, the SPP will include sources that permit a comparison of Mediterranean and non-Mediterranean traditions. Potential insights are specifically expected from a comparison of Byzantine sources with the early-medieval sources of northern and central Europe.

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