Multidisciplinary approach on ancient ports studies

I’am Nicolas Carayon, I’am French and I’ve just integrated the team of the Portus Limen Project as research fellow.

Since my Masters degree at the University of Strasbourg (France), my research looks at the study of ancient Mediterranean harbours, with particular reference to the Phoenician and the Punic periods. I successfully defended a PhD entitled “Phoenicians and Punics ports. Geomorphology and Infrastructures” in 2008. One characteristic of my work is the multidisciplinary approach. I use ancient textual sources, archaeological data and geomorphology. My results obtained during and since my PhD are all based on this fundamentally multidisciplinary research and they have shed new light on the organization and the evolution of the ancient harbour systems and human-environment interactions in coastal areas.

Since 2010, I have applied this method to Roman ports with a research project looking at the ancient ports of Narbonne in which I manage the field operations at two sites: the Lac de Capelles (fig. 1 and 2) and the Sainte-Lucie Island.

View of the summer triclinium found in Lac de Capelles, Narbonne, France (N. Carayon, University of Southampton, CNRS UMR 5140 Lattes – Montpellier)
View of the summer triclinium found in Lac de Capelles, Narbonne, France (N. Carayon, University of Southampton, CNRS UMR 5140 Lattes – Montpellier)

 

Reconstruction of the palaeoenvironment of the piscina and its summer triclinium found in Lac de Capelles, Narbonne, France (P. Cervellin, Région Languedoc-Roussillon – CNRS UMR 5140 Lattes – Montpellier, GRAL)
Reconstruction of the palaeoenvironment of the piscina and its summer triclinium found in Lac de Capelles, Narbonne, France (P. Cervellin, Région Languedoc-Roussillon – CNRS UMR 5140 Lattes – Montpellier, GRAAL)

 

I am also involved in a number of harbour projects in Lebanon, Cyprus, France and Greece. I therefore have international experience in geomorphological and archaeological fieldwork. I have vast experience in taking and studying sedimentary cores (fig. 3) to reconstruct the harbour palaeoenvironements or to excavate and to interpret the excavations results of maritime structures such as harbour facilities or fishponds. I have also acquired good skills with different computing tools like GIS, numerical databases or conception, and web site software. This was my job purpose within the DIKIDA project (2010-2014). I integrated a great quantity of ancient and new maps (topographic, geologic), satellite images, and the records of archaeological, geomorphological and geophysical work in a GIS which is partially visible on the website of the project.

Geoarchaeological coring in Byblos, Lebanon. January 2014 (N. Carayon, University of Southampton, Project Byblos and the Sea)
Geoarchaeological coring in Byblos, Lebanon. January 2014 (N. Carayon, University of Southampton, Project Byblos and the Sea)

 

I have also a great deal of scientific interest in the Italian dug harbours of Centumcellae and Portus, which are of the same nature as the Punic “Cothon” of Carthage.

By integrating the team, I will continue to apply my multidisciplinary skills to the Roman world and to place my previous scientific results from Narbonne in a wider context. I’am also very interested to develop a systematic and multidisciplinary approach to studying ancient ports in the Mediterranean Sea.

My primary task within the project will be to research, recover and integrate a range of published and unpublished data, to compile a web-based port resource relating to the thirty Mediterranean Roman ports that are the focus of the project. I will study the layouts of Roman ports, and their efficacy, the organization of commercial activity at Roman ports, and the evidence for hierarchies within the various Mediterranean port systems.

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