Urban survey of abandoned Roman towns in Italy

Start - End 
2004 - 2024 (ongoing)
Department of Archaeology
Research group(s) 
Research Focus 



During the recent two decades archaeological research on ancient urbanism has left the traditional path of excavations, documentation of earlier field activities, and topographical analysis of surface relics and indications of urban continuity. Field archaeology has begun to reveal the advantages of intensively integrating a range of different non-destructive techniques on urban sites, choosing those suites that are most appropriate for the nature of the town in question. The variety of techniques can be quite impressive, such as the application of different geophysical instruments (for georadar, magnetometer or earth resistance survey, etc.), different aerial photography approaches (such as flying with traditional airplanes, drones or balloons or using multispectral techniques of photography), geomorphological and geomatic approaches (coring, erosion modelling, DTM production …), etc.  Therefore, the concept of integrated, non-invasive multi-method survey relates to a much wider range of techniques, and the overall methodology envisages a reasoned deployment of them all, or of a choice of them for systematic data acquisition at the site studied, by testing, sampling or total coverage.

The current project of the UGent team aims at contributing to the study of urbanism in Roman Italy by these innovating approaches to the archaeological record, while at the same time taking part in the innovation of methods. After successful applications of such Roman town research in other parts of the western Mediterranean (Lusitania, Corsica) most research is now concentrated on fully or partly abandoned Roman town contexts in Italy. In central Adriatic Italy four towns located in the Potenza valley have been investigated between 2004 and 2021, with whole suites of these prospection techniques. They are the coastal colony of Potentia and the inland municipia of Ricina, Trea and Septempeda. Between 2015 aand 2017 full coverage georadar survey work has been achieved on two towns in Latium (Interamna Lirenas and Falerii Novi) in collaboration with the University of Cambridge (Department of Classics). On the site of Falerii Novi a new phase of fieldwork, encompassing GPR prospections, augerings and excavations has started in 2021, in collaboration with the universities of Harvard and Toronto, and the British School at Rome. Recently new work has also started on the large and well-know urban sites of Ostia, Aquinum and Aquileia, in collaboration with different partners.  The contribution of all these integrated surveys, sometimes accompanied by focused small excavation work, allows the detailed and extensive high resolution mapping of the Roman towns and helps to enlarge the dataset of ancient towns in Italy with a view on answering crucial historical questions related to town formation and disintegration, the regional character of urbanism, Roman population numbers, town-countryside connections, etc.




Phd Student(s)