The Evolution of Rome's Maritime Façade: archaeology and geomorphology at Castelporziano (Data Paper) Open Data

Amanda Claridge1 and Helen Rendell2

1. Department of Classics, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK. Email:
2. Department of Geography, University of Loughborough, UK. Email:

Cite this as: Claridge, A. and Rendell, H. (2013) The Evolution of Rome's Maritime Façade: archaeology and geomorphology at Castelporziano (Data Paper). Internet Archaeology, (35).

Dataset Location

This dataset has been deposited with the Archaeology Data Service. doi: 10.5284/1000127


Referee statement by Charles French

Dataset Content

The dataset (Claridge and Rendell 2010) comprises both original digital and digitised (scanned) archival records relating to archaeological, topographical and geophysical fieldwork carried out by British teams at Castelporziano from 1984 to 2009 and geomorphological and environmental fieldwork in the area during 2006-2009 (Rendell et al. 2007; Bicket et al. 2009). The data are organised in 8 sections and 53 subsections, defined primarily by type of survey and then subdivided by individual site or group of sites, and/or data type.


The 2005-2009 project investigated the evolution of the Laurentine Shore, integrating both existing and new archaeological and multivariate geographical analysis to achieve a holistic interpretation of the relationship between the built and natural environments. Working principally within the confines of the modern Castelporziano Estate whose sea front extends 7-15 km south-east of the Tiber delta at Ostia, the project focused on the period between 100 BC and AD 500 and the development of the shore as a 'maritime façade' lined with villas belonging to the Roman emperors and their court.

The main aims of the project were to understand the chronology and pace of coastal change on the Laurentine Shore and the relationships between these changes and the pattern and character of Roman settlement. The project defined a broad chronological framework for the advance of the Tyrrhenian coast at the southern end the Tiber delta from c. 10000 BC to AD 2000, analysed the palaeo-environmental changes associated with that advance, and investigated the relationships between the geomorphology and the pattern of human settlement in the coastal zone during the Roman period (100 BC-AD 500). This involved the development of suitable methodologies for both topographical (DEM) and geophysical (magnetometer) survey in the local conditions (i.e. dense forest cover on sand), the integration of the topographic modelling with multivariate geographical analysis, determination of a precise height value for Roman sea level on the site, determination of 50 luminescence dates along the lengths of the dune ridges, the recovery of cores from dune slacks containing plant macrofossils and other proxies, and the creation of a GIS database.


Section 1 Project Context and Guide to Site Records contains a history of fieldwork in the Castelporziano-Castelfusano-Capocotta area and the context in which the current programme of research has developed, the methodologies employed, a year-by-year journal of the work carried out by the British teams, a bibliography to 2009; a guide-index to the site-coding system, and explanations of the site compass and site datum (neither of which is conventional). Section 2 Archaeological survey and excavation datasets (1984-2009) contains four kinds: graphics (scanned plans, sections and other drawings), levels (spot levels for scanned graphics), photographs (scanned 35 mm colour slides and new digital photography) and context recording sheets. All individual files contain detailed metadata and a searchable Excel spreadsheet of each complete dataset is provided in the first subsection. Five subsections then break the four datasets down according to zone: Vicus Augustanus (site CPV), Villa west of Vicus (sites B1-B3), Fish Farms (sites D5-D6), Sea Wall of the Imperial Villa at Tor Paterno (site F2), and Other Sites (Villa of the Discobolus G2 and test trenches along Via Severiana). Section 3 Topographical Surveys (2003-2009) contains data and reports relating to the Total Station surveys around the Vicus, and around the Fish Farms, with images of the two Digital Elevation Models (DEM). Section 4 Geophysical Surveys (2006-2009) contains reports, analyses and data relating to the geophysical surveys at the Vicus and the Fish Farms. Section 5 Geomorphological Surveys (2006-2009) contains base maps, results for luminescence dating, sampling cores, sedimentology, and also the site GIS. Section 6 Environmental Survey data (2006-2009) contains the results and analyses of bulk samples from excavations at the Vicus and the Fish Farms, the radio-carbon dates obtained from cores, and the palaeo-environmental analyses. Section 7 Archaeo-zoological data (1984-2002) preliminary report and analytical tables of excavated data from 1984-2001. Section 8 Artefact assemblages (1984-2009) two assemblages of particular chronological value in searchable datasets of photos and Excel spreadsheets: 1) Coins and 2) Brickstamps.

The larger research programme, within which the 2005-9 project operated, is still ongoing, and the online archive has been designed to be supplemented, as and when more data and further analyses become available. New data from fieldwork in 2013 will be added to Sections 3 and 4 and a second report covering 2002-2013 will be added to section 7. Other assemblages destined for Section 8 are: 3. inscriptions, 4. ceramics, 5. glass, 6. metalwork, 7. worked bone, 8. painted wall plaster, 9. mosaics, 10. architectural terracottas, 11. marble veneer and other worked marble.

In section 5 the main chronological gap is the period 10000 BC – 2000 BC which is represented only episodically in the dune ridge record but not in the core record from D6 which covers the period from c. 2000 BC to present. None of the other cores contain the older part of the record and this may be the subject of further work.

Re-use potential

The dataset is intended to be re-usable in its entirety by the local Italian State archaeological service (Soprintendenza per i Beni archeologici del Lazio) for their own purposes; Sections 3-6 by the Castelporziano estate management (Segretariato Generale della Presidenza della Repubblica Italiana); the archaeological data in Sections 1-2 and 8, especially images, constitute primary research resources for the archaeology, topography and ancient history of coastal Latium (especially the international teams currently working at Portus, Ostia and the Tiber Delta e.g. Salomon et al. 2012), Roman architecture, building materials and techniques, brickstamp studies. The geomorphological and palaeo-environmental datasets (5 and 6) complement those developed independently for the proximal areas of the Tiber delta around Ostia Antica by Bellotti and co-workers (e.g. Bellotti et al. 2007)

Relationship to other publications

Much of the dataset relates directly to paper, photographic and artefact archives, which are not otherwise published or easily accessible (stored on-site in Italy), and is also more comprehensive than would be possible in a printed publication.


Bicket, A. R., Rendell, H. M., Claridge, A., Rose, P., Andrews, J. and Brown, F. S. J. 2010 'A multiscale geoarchaeological approach from the Laurentine shore (Castelporziano, Lazio, Italy)', Géomorphologie: relief, processus, environnement, (4/2009), 241-256. doi:10.4000/geomorphologie.7720

Bellotti, P., Calderoni, G., Carboni, M. G., Di Bella, L., Tortora, P., Valeri, P., and Zernitskaya, V. 2007 'Late Quaternary landscape evolution of the Tiber River delta plain (Central Italy): new evidence from pollen data, biostratigraphy and 14C dating', Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie, 51(4), 505-534. doi:10.1127/0372-8854/2007/0051-0505

Claridge A. and Rendell H. 2010 The evolution of Rome's maritime facade: archaeology and geomorphology at Castelporziano [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor]. doi:10.5284/1000127

Rendell, H. M. Claridge, A. J. and Clarke, M. L. 2007 'Late Holocene Mediterranean coastal change along the Tiber Delta and Roman occupation of the Laurentine shore, central Italy', Quaternary Geochronology 2(1-4), 83-88. doi:10.1016/j.quageo.2006.04.001

Salomon, F., Delile, H., Goiran, J.-P., Bravard, J.-P., and Keay, S. 2012 'The Canale di Comunicazione Traverso in Portus: the Roman sea harbour under river influence (Tiber delta, Italy)', Géomorphologie: relief, processus, environnement, (1/2012), 75-90. doi:10.4000/geomorphologie.9754


This work was supported by the AHRC, grant number 18211.

Referee Statement

Charles French, Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge.

Cite this as: French, C. 'Referee Statement' in Claridge, A. and Rendell, H. (2013) The Evolution of Rome's Maritime Façade: archaeology and geomorphology at Castelporziano (Data Paper). Internet Archaeology (35). doi:10.11141/ia.35.11

This dataset comprises an extensive set of original and scanned archival records relating to a series of archaeological, geoarchaeological, geophysical and palaeo-environmental studies by British teams (1984-2009) which focused on the development of the Laurentine Shore area between 100BC and AD 500 within the modern Castelporziano Estate located southeast of the Tiber delta at Ostia. There are few such studies in Italy, let alone elsewhere, where there is a holistic approach to the investigation of shoreline change with respect to important urban settlement expansion, in this case associated with the imperial city of Rome. A wide-ranging combination of methodologies has been employed, and having these databases available is very useful for other practitioners, archaeology students and the Italian state archaeological service. In addition the geomorphological approach used offers a broader applicability to any scholar engaged in the investigation of changing shoreline landscapes. This archive contains the basics of how to conduct this type of landscape investigation, provides a mass of raw and interpreted data, much of it in map and GIS form, and addresses the implications of shoreline progradation and sea level change through time with respect to settlement expansion and the development of Portus and Ostia in the Roman period. Moreover this archive provides a good case study of modelling shoreline change during the Roman period and offers the potential to expand this model beyond the confines of the Castelporziano Estate along the Laurentine Shore.

November 2013

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