PortusLimen Project

This last talk of the 2014-2015 academic year saw three researchers from the PortusLimen Project (http://portuslimen.eu) share part of their research with us. The three speakers, Ferréol, Nuria and Emilia, all have different areas of expertise, emphasising the multidisciplinary approach of the project. It is focussed on Roman harbours located around the Mediterranean Sea. Part of this project takes into account the harbour structures in their natural context.

Ferréol, a postdoctoral researcher specialising in geoarchaeology of ancient harbours, works on reconstructing the past landscapes and documenting the changes taking place over the years. He showed some case studies explaining the specificity of this geoarchaeological approach to Roman harbours, showing among other things how various sizes of sediment can show how busy or otherwise the ports may have been.

Núria, a postgraduate researcher specialised in classical philology, looks at literary sources to try and figure out the appropriate names for particular types of ports. She does this by comparing fictional and non-fictional descriptions of ports. Working with researchers like Ferréol is a big help here, because the literary sources tend to take liberties with the factual descriptions.

Emilia, another postgraduate researcher, also looks at the written word, but instead of descriptions of ports and harbours, she focuses on inscriptions found on commercial items to understand the roles of the individual subjects or societies that were directly performing the commercial operations. Specialising in Roman law, Emilia is trying to understand the complexity of trading procedures to understand the organisation of a port in the Roman Mediterranean.


‘Seventeenth century Maritime Trade Routes – as seen through a musical instrument maker in Malta’ (Anna Borg Cardona)

The talk yesterday was given by Anna Borg Cardona, who is a University of Southampton PhD researcher working out of Malta. She gave a very interesting presentation on 17th-century trade routes in Malta, as seen through the lens of instrument maker Mattheo Morales.

Morales was born in 1637 in Valletta, which was a new harbour city of the Maltese Islands. Valletta at the time was the seat of the Order of the Knights of Saint John and was therefore a busy hub port. Morales died without a will, which is lucky for Anna as an inventory of his goods was drawn up immediately after his death. The documentary evidence for Morales’ business life has survived well (with the exception of his account book that would show where he sold his instruments), which has allowed Anna to trace the materials he used for his instruments, as well as the investments he took part in with seafaring men who travelled far and wide across the Mediterranean. One

Conversation flowed easily with Anna and the session’s attendees. This project has many interesting elements to it, all of which were highlighted with the wide range of questions. We’re all keeping our fingers crossed that she finds Mattheo Morales’ missing account book!