University of Southampton and British School at Rome (BSR) archaeologists, leading an international excavation of Portus — the ancient port of Rome, believe they have discovered a large Roman shipyard.
The team, working with the Italian Archaeological Superintendancy of Rome, has uncovered the remains of a massive building close to the distinctive hexagonal basin or 'harbour', at the centre of the port complex.
University of Southampton Professor and Portus Project Director, Simon Keay comments, "At first we thought this large rectangular building was used as a warehouse, but our latest excavation has uncovered evidence that there may have been another, earlier use, connected to the building and maintenance of ships.
"Few Roman Imperial shipyards have been discovered and, if our identification is correct, this would be the largest of its kind in Italy or the Mediterranean."
It has long been known that Portus was a crucial trade gateway linking Rome to the Mediterranean throughout the Imperial period and the Portus Project1 team has been investigating the port's significance over a number of years. Until now, no major shipyard building for Rome has been identified, apart from the possibility of one on the Tiber near Monte Testaccio, and a smaller one recently claimed for the neighbouring river port at Ostia.
A recent new grant of £640,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has made this latest phase of excavation possible. These AHRC funds, together with financial support from the Archaeological Superintendancy of Rome, the University of Southampton and the British School at Rome have allowed extensive excavation to be undertaken at the site this year.
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