Arising from questions raised by the excavations at the Vicus in the 1990s, the project is investigating the nature and chronology of physical changes affecting the litus Laurentinum before, during and immediately after the Roman period.
Archaeological, geophysical and geomorphological survey methods are being combined in the study of a series of transects across the ancient coastline as it is preserved within the Castelporziano estate, one to include the Vicus, which has been the object of detailed archaeological study, another a kilometre further to the south, in association with a late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age site and two fish farms of late republican date. At both points the Roman shore lies partly buried in a sequence of sand dunes and densely forested some 400 metres inland from the modern beach. A third transect, 2 kilometres to the south again, runs through an enormous harbour-villa belonging to the Antonine emperors, in the locality of Tor Paterno.
The study extends beyond the morphology of individual sites in relation to their natural environment to such wider issues as property boundaries, regional building practices, the origins and distribution of building materials, and their despoliation and recycling during and after Roman occupation. Taking advantage of the latest developments in precision dating of sand deposits by luminescence, it is also determining the extent to which the formation of the present dune landscape was episodic and whether the eventual abandonment of settlement in the 5th century AD coincided with major climatic change.
(1) What is the significance of the differing locations, sizes, construction and phasing of Roman sites along the Laurentine Shore south of Ostia?
(2) How do the patterns of supply of building materials compare with those at Ostia?
(3) What social patterning can be deduced from the brickstamp evidence?
(4) Was the Roman land/sea interface more articulated than the present one and were there any changes during the period?
(5) Were there any natural or artificial harbours?
(6) What evidence is there for changing patterns of land drainage and vegetation and for the exploitation of coastal resources, especially oysters and fish?
(7) To what extent did the architecture of the maritime villas exploit existing terrain, including dune ridges and interdune lagoons and swamps?
(8) Where was the forest in the Roman period and what did it consist of?
(9) Is the timing of the abandonment of settlement sites connected with the phases of dune formation?
Aims and Objectives