(Geo-)archaeological research in the Roman town of Ammaia (Portugal). Relation city and countryside

Start - End 
2000 - 2013 (ongoing)
Research group(s) 



The archaeological and historical identification of the site as the emplacement of the Roman town of Ammaia dates from the mid 1930s. Systematic archaeological digs started only in 1994 and from 1997 onwards this work of excavation, study and conservation has been organised by the “Fundação Cidade de Ammaia” in close collaboration with the universities of Évora and Coimbra (Portugal). Several excavations were organised in the town's forum and forum temple, bath complex, southern entrance gate and housing areas to valorise the site and make it interesting for visitors.

Under the direction of Prof Dr Frank Vermeulen and Prof Dr Morgan De Dapper (Department of Geography), Ghent University has been actively involved since 2001 in the archaeological research of Ammaia. The main objective was a landscape study of the environment and the territory of the town, with special attention given to the importance of natural resources for the development of the town. For this purpose, geoarchaeological research methods were applied by an interdisciplinary team of archaeologists, geologists and geomorphologists.

Between 2009 and 2013, the archaeological research in Ammaia was part of a European People – Marie Curie Action IAPP research project, coordinated by Ghent University and the university of Évora (directors: Prof Dr Frank Vermeulen and Prof Dr Cristina Corsi). The project applied non-destructive research methods (geomorphological and topographical studies, geophysical research, and aerial photographic methods) to map the full urban development. The results of the non-destructive approach are further complemented by and tested against excavation data, especially in the forum and bath areas. By the very intense prospecting carried out here the project provided the most complete Roman city plan in the Iberian Peninsula, which also led to a detailed 3D visualization of the early imperial fase of the settlement.

The wider landscape study of Ammaia focused primarily on the natural resource exploitation in the town's territory. A large gold mine near the Tagus river and iron mining sites were located. Moreover, several Roman stone quarries were discovered, including the quarry that supplied the large building projects in the town. Near the town itself, the trace of the Roman town wall was determined, as well as the main water sources and the trace of the aqueducts.