The 2008 campaign of the Porolissum Forum Project was conducted June 16-July 18 with a Team of about 40 members. Significant progress was made in many areas of the project in summer 2008. Rob Wanner and Erin Colshan invested considerable energy in developing digital plans of the entire site and began work on a 3-D reconstruction of the forum. The plans and reconstructions require further work before they can be published on-line. Excavations focused in three general areas - along the perimeter of the forum's courtyard, in the area of the subterranean brick structure discovered in the final days of the 2007 season and to the northeast of the basilica to investigate the initial phase of Roman occupation at Porolissum.
Beginning in the presumed forum's courtyard, three trenches confirmed the extent of the courtyard on the north, west and south sides. The east side requires further work. These trenches also confirmed immediate post-Roman construction upon the remains of the forum - crude concrete and stone walls that closed the porticoes. Trenches 10A and B revealed a semicircular water feature that extended into the forum's courtyard on the north side. This may have been installed at the same time as the presumed bath complex explored in 2004, although the chronology is still subject to debate. Also related to water, the re-excavation of the subterranean brick structure to the south of the forum confirmed that this served as a cistern. While the length could not be determined in the short duration of the 2008 season, the cistern, composed of concrete and brick with a thick layer of cocciopesto plaster to render the walls impermeable, is about 10 Roman feet in width and 15 Roman feet tall from the floor to the top of the vault.
Trench 14, to the NE of the basilica revealed evidence for the chronology of the first phase of Roman occupation at Porolissum. As our team has revealed in past seasons, the area where the forum was located was first occupied by a wooden fortress constructed shortly after the conclusion of Trajan's second military campaign in Dacia. This trench revealed a series of wooden features pertaining to the fortress and a fortification ditch. Of great chronological importance, we were able to establish a firm date to the abandonment of the fortress (and, hence, the beginning of the what we refer to as the pre-forum/early forum phase). Based upon a large primary deposit of archaeological materials, including pottery, the transition between the fortress and early stone phase of the area of the forum occurred during the reign of Antoninus Pius. This date is based upon exemplars of late Italian sigilata and a nearly intact Beltran IIA amphora; a coin of Antoninus Pius confirmed the ceramic evidence.
Work continued on the growing collection of archaeological materials. We were very fortunate to have Prof. Michael MacKinnon on the team. Prof. MacKinnon examined the entire backlog of animal bone from the 2004-2007 seasons and made great progress on the 2008 materials. De Sena, MacKinnon and Wanner also began to survey the hinterland of Porolissum in order to gain a better understanding of waterways, stone quarries, clay outcrops and communication routes within a 25 km radius of Porolissum.