promoting cultural heritage and conservation

Live and Dig in Rome: Ostia Antica Project

Ostia Antica

Less than six months until our Summer 2012 dig kicks off!  AIRC’s new archaeological investigation at Ostia Antica is going to be an incredible educational and scientific adventure for many reasons.

First and foremost, the site is the perfect question mark: a large structure that has never been investigated or integrated into the general plan and understanding of Ostia Antica, ancient Rome’s first port and an amazing site rich with history.

Second, the site lies on what was, in the early Imperial period (1st-2ndcenturies AD), the coastline of the Tyrrhenian Sea, suggesting that the structure was probably part of a port facility.

Present situation at site

Third, the investigation will follow the low-impact, high-return model that is now favored in archaeology. The large open-space excavations of the past few decades have become too expensive, with high up-front costs for labor, transportation, and conservation. The new model involves smaller and fewer trenches aimed at retrieving specific information (like foundations) before being refilled, as well as detailed architectural and topographic studies to determine the function(s) of a structure and its relationships to surrounding structures that from part of a greater complex, neighborhood, or area. Everything is done digitally, to reduce post-processing costs. The site is easy to reach and explore from Rome, using the commuter trains that go to the beach at Ostia Lido.

This is the perfect moment for such an investigation. Ongoing excavations just down the road around the Tiber mouth have made some amazing discoveries in the last year, including partially preserved Imperial ships and other large structures that appear to belong to port facilities, as well as the foundations of the famous lighthouse of Portus, the massive artificial harbor constructed by the Emperors Claudius and Trajan to increase the efficiency of grain importation at Rome. Moreover, a Belgian-French team has been studying the mouth of the Tiber using geological coring to define the historical changes in the appearance and use of the area, especially in Roman times, and a British team has conducted important new excavations at Portus itself, clarifying the layout and chronology of the primary buildings.

Let the countdown to June begin…

Albert Prieto, is AIRC co-Director of 2012 Ostia Antica excavation and Associate Director of Archaeology.  Please contact him at albert[at] for all field school and excavations questions– from academic to gear requirements and intensity to enjoyment, he’s got it covered.


One response

  1. Pingback: (Why Not) Study in Rome? « D a r i u s A r y a D i g s

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