Ancient Roman Port

Through all the archaeology classes I have taken and articles I have read, I have learned that there is always something more at archaeological excavation sites. Whether it’s a new artifact that leads to a new interpretation or new questions or more to a site than was discovered before. In a previous class I had done a project on a port in Italy that was very important during to the Romans called Ostia. While surveying critical ports to Rome during the Romans height, archaeologists have discovered a new boundary wall meaning it was much bigger than they previously thought it to be. Through the use of “geophysical survey techniques”, specifically magnetometry, archaeologists found the boundary wall extended more down the Tiber river and included towers and three more warehouses which were much bigger than previously excavated warehouses. One of which being as big as a football field. This discovery pushes further evidence of commercial activities during the beginning centuries of this ports building. “Director of the Portus Project, Professor Simon Keay says, “Our research not only increases the known area of the ancient city, but it also shows that the Tiber bisected Ostia, rather than defining its northern side.” The Portus Project is working on the important ports of Rome between the 1st through 6th century including the port of Ostia and Portus, Ostia’s neighboring port.  Another building was also discovered but its use is still unknown, which is why I believe it’s important for archaeologists to revisit sites that have already had research done on it and for archaeologists to extensively excavate newly discovered sites as to retain as much information from that site as possible. This way archaeologists can get a better interpretation of sites. Professor Keay states, “Our results are of major importance for our understanding of Roman Ostia and the discoveries will lead to a major re-think of the topography of one of the iconic Roman cities in the Mediterranean.”  The workings of this project supports that going back to iconic sites like the Roman port of Ostia can give new insights and a better understanding on topics like topography of critical archaeological sites. With the advancement of technology over the last 50 years, archaeologists should revisit sites and use new technology like GIS to bring forward more information and better understandings of the important sites of past civilizations, like the Portus Project did for the Roman port of Ostia.  


I could never say that one discovery or civilization is more important or more significant than any other one. Every archaeological site has importance to a culture or civilization. Although everyone has their own specific interests in particular groups or places around the world, I could never say one is better than the other. They were all important to someone at one point in history. With this class, we focused on a few sites like Macchu Picchu, the Great Pyramids of Giza, and Great Zimbabwe all of which were great sites. As an anthropology major and Michigan State, I found all of the sites interesting and captivating as an anthropology student and as an explorer at heart. I thought the Great Pyramids of Giza stuck out to me because I was aware of their existence and have seen many pictures of them, but I never knew any Egyptian history that surrounded these astounding architectural structures, but I’ve been curious, but haven’t taken time to actually learn about its history and cultural significance. With the combination of the lectures, readings, and movies on the pyramids, I have learned a great deal about its significance to the Egyptian people economically, socially, and religiously. The pyramids held great importance as symbols, both as of recognition and as passage for the dead to the other world. I just found this archaeological site particularly neat because of how massive the structures are for the time period and lack of technology available. For what they had available they created something to be remembered until the end of human history and become one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. I also found the design of the interior fascinating with the way the burial tombs were created. I believe the whole idea of the pyramids as tombs for Egyptian royalty incredibly fascinating for its cultural, social, and religious implications as a whole for the Egyptian society. These grand examples of architecture really applaud Egypt as a determined civilization in the competitive ancient world.  This advancing society in a desert oasis made its mark on the world today with its pyramids, expanding borders, and ruling pharaohs. Egypt’s history as a whole draws in archaeologists, historians, and tourists alike with its pyramids and rich culture and I find that interesting and all the information we’ve learned from class has made this site exciting and on my list of places to visit.

Kingdom excavations

In the early centuries, many kingdoms were emerging in the cultural centers of the old world, like in Europe, Africa, and Asia. Usually people think of ancienct Greece, Rome, or Egypt. Less famously known when you think of great kingdoms are those of the African kingdoms. With the height of the kingdoms in Sudan being overshadowed by ancient Egypt, its historical presence is minimal, but with the new excavations occuring today, the new information will be brought to light including the fact Sudan has many more pyramids than Eygpt. Although not as grand in size, but more numerous. In the last week of classes we learned about Great Zimbabwe and I found an article that focused on some archaeological findings related to old kingdoms in Sudan. The new discoveries coming out of Sudan are crucial to the history of ancient kingdoms of Africa and are starting a commotion in the archaeological departments all around the world. The Sudan government “signed a $135 million agreement with Qatar that would provide money for 27 archaeological missions, the renovation of the Sudan National Museum and the development of tourism projects” which has drawn a lot of interest to be included in these exciting projects.This agreement is opening many oppourtunites to learn more information about the ancient kingdoms of Africa and link them to other great kingdoms. Especially with the instability Sudan is experiencing with its goverement and economic split some good media and tourism would help with their current situation. Archaeological excavations in areas experiencing tension like Sudan need a way to make money with the seperation between Sudan and South Sudan, and shining a light on all of the rich culture and archaeology they have to offer with surelly draw some attention and will aid in an increase in tourism. And ensuring the preservation of archaeological sites in newly excavated places, like those in Sudan, is of high importance and thankfully, “Sudanese archaeologists are also conscious of current opportunities” and what it means to Sudan’s rich heritage and ancient history in connection to other kingdoms during the early centuries.


In the article they make an excellent comparison between the ancient kingdoms in Sudan playing an important role for Africa historically as Greece did for Europe. Excavations in places not as romantically focused like Rome, Greece, and Egypt would help with the understanding of most ancient civilizations and kingdoms, like the lesser known ones in Africa.

The Preservation of our Oldest and Finest Remains

While learning about the Upper Paleolithic time period and watching the video, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, we learn about the importance of the context of these remains and cave paintings, but mostly the importance of the need for the preservation of these remnants. A part of the video about the Chauvet Cave that stuck out to me was that part of the cave was closed off because the paintings started showing signs of mold growth on them that was damaging the cave paintings. And while these cave paintings are beautiful and deserve to be seen, the importance of preserving the art should be a higher priority, and the general public is not allowed to enter the cave for the protection of both the ancient art and the people because of the “near-toxic levels of radon and carbon dioxide”. Thankfully this cave is only at risk by human contact, while other caves are in danger from climactic changes as well as the presence of humans.


The Chauvet Cave is also not the only example of cave art that is at risk, an article in science daily also describes art panels in caves from the Neolitic and Bronze Age in Northumberland and England that show deterioration. Dr Aron Mazel , Director of ICCHS at Newcastle University, said, “People think rocks are permanent and that because rock art seems to have been there for a very long time , it will last forever.  Sadly, this is not the case and some of the world’s most interesting art could be at risk. We need to act now if we want this art, which was created by humans thousands and thousands of years ago, to be there in the future.” Anthropologists and scientists alike recognize the danger they are in and are working on how to better preserve these ancient paintings for future study and generations to come.


The remains of ancient cultures are fragile and they need to be a priority for preservation. Thankfully from the article there are developments in identifying the specific rock art that is the most at risk. Not only does this acknowledgement of preservation help archaeologists and anthropologists in their field, but also gives way to scientific studies of what cause the deterioration and decay in wall art as well as preservation and cultural heritage. This early warning will help the scientific and cultural fields involved discover better advancements in protecting the delicate remains of our human past.

source:Newcastle University (2013, March 14). Ancient rock art at risk, warn experts. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 26, 2013, from­/releases/2013/03/130314124325.htm

The present encroaching on Egypt’s past

Archaeology studies the remains of the past and human history. But what happens when the present encroaches on the past and its remnants? We have been looking into tombs and Egypt’s necropolis and this recent article reveals the illegal expansion of modern-day cemeteries into the city of the dead. Archaeologists and antiquities experts are shocked by this intrusive behavior in Dahshour, Egypt. It surprises me that the locals are doing this to their own history and heritage, and they, “say they won’t go unless they are given a new site nearby and compensation for what they have already built.” I understand they need a place to put their beloved dead, but destroying ancient tombs for this purpose is hard for me to grasp as an Anthropology major. Another present day problem affecting the disturbance of the dead is the government and their inability to stop this invasion because their system is still in turmoil from the uprising a couple of years ago. The government has a hard time agreeing on terms with the local villagers when they have so much on their hands from the recent revolution. So antiquities experts tried another route through the local military and police enforcement agencies. And they won’t get themselves involved and, “past requests for orders to remove illegal construction at archaeological sites had been ignored,” and Mohammed Younes, head of antiquities for Dahshour, believes there is no deterrence for this increasing behavior.

The present directly affects the past and its remains and this can affect all the information we can take from the necropolis and its context. And from what we have learned in one of the first few days of class, context is the most important part of archaeology. Once something is taken out of the place it was found or disturbed by the people living around there it loses its context. Another issue that is increasing and disturbing the necropolis is the act of looting. Thieves would come at night to dig and even assaults have occurred between the guards protecting the sacred tombs and the thieves. The many present influences on what is left of the past endangers archaeological context and the history of past civilizations. The present effect on past antiquities is negative and disrespectful for the country and history of Egypt. I believe there needs to be more focus on the protection and preservation of historical areas such as Dashour.



A Struggle to Uncover the Past Today

I don’t think people outside the anthropology community really understand how today’s technologies and structures are obstacles anthropologists and archaeologists now need to overcome in order to uncover the past. With ancient cities becoming growing and bustling cities full of millions of people like Rome, Cairo, and Mexico City, it becomes difficult to excavate as carefully as an archaeologist would prefer to in these infamous antique cities. An article from the New York Times discussed a recent discovery of a female skeleton of possible noble Aztec descent in the heart of the vast city of Mexico city led by archaeologist Raul Barrera and his team. The site was the remains of an ancient Aztec temple, Templo Mayor, that had been decimated by the Spanish and replaced with their new empire and from then it has transformed into Mexico City today.

Archaeologists have been uncovering the site with a few issues. “To get there, Mr. Barrera’s team must first navigate the electricity lines and water mains that are the guts of the modern city and then travel down through a colonial layer, which yields its own set of artifacts,” these are the obstacles today’s archaeologists have to overcome when it comes to excavating the once ancient cities. With all of the limited access the point the article makes is, “Mexico City’s archaeologists cannot dig anywhere they please,” which puts a damper on the possibilities that lie under bustling cities. Even with the limitations, the discoveries found on this site like the noble female skeleton, remains of ball court, and a small plaza. Sadly the ball court is under a Spanish cathedral and street.

The site of Templo Mayor in the heart of Mexico City

The site of Templo Mayor in the heart of Mexico City

This also makes the whole field of archaeology more interesting to me. How do archaeologists deal with this? And what does it take to excavate in cities like Mexico City and still obtaining all the information from the site? Being an archaeologist today is not like how it was a few centuries ago with all the open land and smaller population, it would make it more possible to excavate a site without the technologies and buildings that sprawl majority of the land on the planet. Being an Anthropology major myself, I find this fascinating and also a little intimidating because if I want to pursue a career as an archaeologist, this will be what I will have to deal with when excavating sites in large cities like Mexico City in the future.