Ancient harbor geoarchaeology

My research arises from the realization that due to silting up process, many Roman harbour basin sites were perfect sedimentary traps that have been in-filled with a range of deposits that are well suited for palaeo-environmental studies. My methodological approach is upon the laboratory-based analysis of sedimentary cores drilled into these ancient basins. These cores present with what amount to sedimentary archives that are studied by a pluridisciplinary team (geographers, historians, archaeologists, biologists, sedimentologists, geologists, geochemists and others), and provide us with a lot of information about past envıronmental conditions, as well as the characteristics of the harbour basins themselves (depth, life-span, rate of infill, phases of dredging etc..). I have been involved in developing thıs approach at key ancient Mediterranean harbours in marine, lagoonal or fluvial contexts: Alexandria, Taposiris, Avaris (Egypt), Portus, Ostıa (Italy), Utıca (Tunisia), Piraeus (Greece).

I have also been involved in researching into the evolution of past landscapes, and in particular, contributing to our understanding of the geography of ancient coastlines. My work has considered variations in sea-level, fluvial inputs, tectonic movements and human modifications (breakwaters…). For example, in one project we have been able to demonstrate that the rocky hill of the Piraeus near Athens was originally an island, while sedimentary archives from drilled cores confirm the historical text of Strabo. We did similar work on the ancient island of Ougarit (Ras Ibn Hani, Syria) and on the Pharos island at Alexandria in Egypt ): in all these cases we obtained a precise chrono-stratigraphy.

Last but not least, I have made contributions to the study of lead traces relating to ancient occupation and human impact at port sites. At Alexandria, we have been able to prove the existence of an ancient phase of occupation dating to the middle of the 2nd millennium BC, well prior of the foundation of Alexandria by Alexander the Great. We have also been able to gauge the rate of lead palaeo-pollution ın the ımperıal harbour of Rome (Portus).

Contributions to Training

  • Co-direction of four PhD students since 2007 on topics relating to the marine, lagoonal and fluvial palaeo-environments of ancient harbours
  • Directıon and co direction of fifteen masters students.
  • Co-direction of Plateform OMEAA (palaeoenvironmental laboratory), University of Lyon, for Masters and PhD students, and for Postdocs.

Main Journal Articles

GOIRAN J.-Ph., SALOMON F., MAZZINI I., BRAVARD J.-P., PLEUGER E., VITTORI C., BOETTO G., CHRISTIANSEN J., ARNAUD P., PELLEGRINO A., PEPE C., SADORI L., 2014, Geoarchaeology confirms location of the ancient harbour basin of Ostia (Italy), Journal of Archaeological Science, 41, 389-398.

GOIRAN J.-Ph., PAVLOPOULOS K. P., FOUACHE E. , TRIANTAPHYLLOU M. , ETIENNE R. , 2011, “Piraeus, the ancient island of Athens: Evidence from Holocene sediments and historical archives”, Geology, v. 39; no. 6; p. 531-534.

GOIRAN J.-Ph., SALOMON F., TRONCHERE H., DJERBI H., CARBONEL P., OGNARD C., OBERLIN Chr., 2011, “Géoarchéologie des ports de Claude et de Trajan, Portus, delta du Tibre”, MEFRA, 123-1, p. 157-236.

GOIRAN J.-Ph., TRONCHERE H., SALOMON F., CARBONEL P., DJERBI H., OGNARD C., 2010, “Palaeoenvironmental reconstruction of the ancient harbors of Rome: Claudius and Trajan’s marine harbors on the Tiber delta”, Quaternary International, vol. 216, n°1-2, p. 3-13.

GOIRAN J.-Ph., TRONCHERE H., COLLALELLI U., SALOMON F., DJERBI H., 2009, “Découverte d’un niveau marin biologique sur les quais du Portus : le port antique de Rome”, Méditerranée, 112, p. 59-67.

GOIRAN J.-Ph., MORHANGE C., 2001, ” Geoarcheology of ancient mediterranean harbours”, Topoi, 11 (2), p. 647-669. https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-01061154 

Other Research Contributions

  • Member of Councıl of Laboratory UMR 5133 (2004-2014)
  • Member of National Committee of CNRS section 31 sınce 2012
  • Head of 2 ANR young scıentıst on ancıent harbours geoarchaeology (2006-2009) and palaeoenvıronments and human ınpacts durıng ancıent tıme on the Tıber delta, Rome (2010-2013). Partner of ANR Gezıra for landscape evolutıon on the Nıle Delta, Egypt (2008-2011).
  • Member of AERES Commıttee (2011-2012)

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