PFP 2007 - summary of results

PFP 2007 - summary of results

The 2007 campaign of the Porolissum Forum Project was conducted June 18-July 31, 2007 with a Team of about 40 members. The two primary objectives of the 2007 campaign were to explore the presumed basilica on the north side of the forum and to excavate some 30 meters to the south of the Forum's courtyard where a post-Roman pottery kiln was discovered in 2003 and where the magnetometry results indicated a series of round features consistant with pottery kilns.

Beginning with the latter, no pottery kilns were revealed; however, our team excavated portions of two large structures, one of concrete and stone masonry and the other of brick. In Trench 9 we unearthed the corner of a substantial architectural feature whose walls are 70 cm thick. Two phases are apparent - the initial building and a modification to the structure whereby two crude walls were added as well as a ceramic water conduit with outward flow. Too little of the structure was excavated and, thus, there was no evidence for the function of the structure in its first phase. Hypotheses ranging from a monumental entrance into the Forum and a temple have been posed. In the later, possibly post-Roman phase, the structure was converted into a feature that required the drainage of water, possibly a public fountain or a cistern. One crude wall was built to abutt the western wall of the original structure as if to rienforce the wall; another crude wall of about 25 cm was erected some 4 meters to the east, just to one side of a ceramic water conduit. The fragments of two large storage vessels were unearthed just outside this structure.

Trench 9.3 revealed an unusual feature in the final days of the season. The corner of a brick structure was unearthed. This stucture was set into the ground and was, thus, essentially subterranean. It had a vaulted roof and the walls rose at least 2.3 meters to the bottom of the vault (we did not have time to excavate to the floor). This is the first brick structure ever to have been discovered at Porolissum and is unusual throughout the northern provinces of the Empire where the use of locally available stone was the norm. The walls were lined with cocciopesto. Two widely different hypotheses have been suggested, but we must wait until the 2008 season to verify the function of this structure. Ultimately the vaulted roof collapsed and residents of Porolissum filled in the gap in the earth with stone and earth. It was around this time that the stone feature in Trench 9 was renovated and the drain installed.

The area of the presumed basilica (Trenches 10 and 11) presented other enigmas. The basilica appears to have measured 17 meters in width from the northern collonade of the courtyard to the rear wall of the structure. It was built upon the remains of a timber building (Trajanic/Hadrianic), which was probably one of Porolissum's original fortresses. The length of the basilica is not clear since there were several later structures overlying the original stone structure. The central portion of the basilica was heated, as a hypocaust system indicates. The roof may have been vaulted as a thick layer of rubble and decomposed concrete suggest. The stone structure was destroyed in some manner, possibly during the late Roman period, but the causes are heretofore unknown.

During the late Roman phase, the area served a different function involving water. Several heavy walls were erected as were a series of at least four small basins which were lined with plaster. By this time, many features of the presumed forum had been transformed into residential and industrial areas. The late feature with the the water basins may have been a small private bath (within a house?) or an industrial area, such as a tannery or a fuller's shop. Within Trench 10, we excavated a short section of the same late ditch encountered in Trench 4 in 2006. There is still no solid evidence to suggest when the trench was dug; however, it seems to have served for a brief period of time.

The artifact/ecofact assemblage was interesting as well. Of approximately 100 kg of pottery, a small number of examples were imported from other areas of the Roman Empire (Italy, South Spain and Gaul). All examples dated to the first half of the 2nd century AD. Also of great interest was a large collection of post-Roman artifacts crafted from animal bone and a series of regionally manufactured red-slipped pottery with close affinities to late African red-slipped pottery. A number of late 2nd and early 3rd century coins were unearthed as were several copper alloy objects, including a bracelet and the end of a flute or whistle. We observed a typical range of animal bone (cattle, pig, sheep/goat) as well as the remains of four dogs.

PFP 2007, Trench 10 - early Roman ditch and fillPFP 2007, Trench 9 - Severan period house (?)