During the Roman period, the port of Puteoli (Pozzuoli) played an essential role in the supply of goods for the city of Rome from across the Mediterranean. This was particularly true with respect to the import of grain from Egypt from the reign of Augustus down into the 2nd c AD. Attempting to understand its harbour is complicated by long-term volcanic activity involving eruptions and bradyseisms*, but also coastal variations (sedimentation / erosion). A palaeogeographical reconstruction of the Bay of Pozzuoli is an additional challenge due to the complexity of the geomorphological processes in the surrounding Phlegrean Fields.
Within the framework of the PortusLimen Project, the University of Southampton (UK), the CNRS / University Lyon 2 (France) and the Pozzuoli office of the Soprintendenza Archeologia della Campania (Italy – Dott.ssa Costanza Giallanella), engaged in a geoarchaeological study of the area. From the 22nd to the 26th of February 2016, we drilled a transect of 3 cores of 20 meters each, between Puteoli and the adjacent Portus Iulius. Our aim was to reconstruct the coastal variations during the last three millennia and the creation of a man-made coast. Through the sedimentary archives, we are particularly interested in evaluating the water column of the waterfront of Puteoli during the Roman period and its evolution through time. We also aim to evaluate the extent to which an artificial sea-front was created, as well as the degree of closure of the harbour basin of Pozzuoli by the artificial jetty with arches known from engravings and early written sources.
The core will be transported to the University of Southampton and analysed in the PLUS (Palaeoenvironmental Laboratory of the University of Southampton directed by Prof. Tony Brown) by Dr. Ferréol Salomon. The sequences identified will be analysed in collaboration with the Italian National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology and the University of Naples Frederico II.
We would like to thank the Dott.ssa Costanza Gialanella and Alfredo Cetrangolo of the Soprintendenza Archeologia della Campania for all their support and assistance, as well as the Circolo Nautico San Marco, the municipality of Pozzuoli for permits, and the company Tecno In for drilling the deep cores – particularly and especially Vincenzo Pone.
By Ferréol Salomon and Nicolas Carayon (University of Southampton)
* Bradyseism: uplift and descent of the Earth’s surface due to underground volcanic activity (hydrothermal and/or magma chamber activities)