The field school will take place at Tróia, a beautiful sand peninsula 17 km long that is today a touristic resort due to its white sand beaches on the Atlantic Ocean. Part of peninsula belongs to the Sado Estuary Natural Reserve and a specific area is classified as a Botanical Reserve due to the rarity of a number of plants in the sand dunes of Tróia.
The site is located in the center south of Portugal, only 50 km from Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, and only a 15 minute boat trip from Setúbal, a city that goes back to the Roman Period and Middle Ages and has 120,000 inhabitants. The Setúbal Bay, that also borders Tróia, is classified by UNESCO as one of The Most Beautiful Bays in the World.
It is in this sand embankment between the Sado River and the Atlantic Ocean, belonging in Roman times to the city of Salacia Imperatoria Augusta, in the province of Lusitania, that were built a number of fish-salting factories to produce salted fish and fish sauces like the famous garum. These were put in amphorae and carried by boat to many different regions of the Mediterranean and to Rome, the capital of the Empire. The production center founded in the early 1st c. employed many people and developed into a town with houses, baths, wells, cemeteries and at a late moment, an early Christian basilica with well-preserved wall paintings.
When the Roman settlement was abandoned in the 6th c., or even on the early 7th c., sand dunes covered it and were responsible for its exceptional preservation. A number of walls are preserved up to 4 m high and a number of the fish-salting vats are complete, and some still reveal the fish bones from the last production in the bottom when they are excavated. The intense economic activity caused by the proximity to the ocean and the river and the early abandonment make the site very rich in archaeological finds, specially different types of pottery like terra sigillata (including African Red Slip Ware) and amphorae but also metal objects like coins or bone objects.
A chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Tróia is today the most prominent building of Tróia and is the center an annual festivity in August organized by fishermen. Documents of the 15th and 16th centuries show that the chapel already existed in that period and the date of its foundation was unknown in the early 16th century. Since it stands on a Roman construction and less than 10m away from the Roman early Christian basilica, it represents the continuity of the Roman settlement into the present day.
The heavy erosion the site suffers from the tides coming into the Sado estuary strongly contributed for its early discovery. Tróia appears in the literature since the 16th c. as a Roman settlement with fish-salting vats and is frequently visited and referred by authors in the following centuries.
The first acknowledged excavations took place in the 18th c. by future Queen D. Maria I and in the 1850s an important series of excavation campaigns were carried on by Sociedade Archeological Lusitana (Lusitanian Archaeological Society), from Setúbal. The main results of these works were the discovery of residential buildings and a bath complex.
Among many other visitors, Hans Christian Andersen sailed on a fishing boat to visit the site in 1866 and called it the “Pompeii of Setúbal” and described foundations of houses, a street and a bath house with a mosaic floor and marble slabs.
In the 20th c., from 1948 up to the 70s, excavations were carried on by the directors of the today National Museum of Archaeology, exposing, in particular, several fish-salting factories, the bath complex, cemeteries and a Christian basilica.
A number of articles on specific aspects and materials resulting from these works were published, but only in 1994 was there a consistent presentation and interpretation of the main fish-salting factories by R. Étienne, Y. Makaroun and F. Mayet in a book called Un Grand Complexe Industriel à Troia (Portugal) (A Large Industrial Complex at Troia (Portugal)).
In 2006 began a new project, promoted by Troia Resort, for the conservation and presentation of the Roman site to the public. The necessary archaeological works, carried on by the field school team, provided new information and the identification of 27 production units, giving a new perspective of the importance of the Roman site.
Based on the importance of the fish-salting installations and the singularity of the settlement as the largest production center of the kind in the Roman Empire, in 2016 the site was listed in the Portuguese Tentative List of World Heritage Sites.
Archaeological Focus for 2019
In 2018 the goal was to investigate the fish-salting Workshop 4, a very large production unit with 11 vats visible in three rows, but only six vats already excavated.
The excavation of this workshop began in the 1970s because fragments of mosaic were visible on the surface. Archaeologists expected to uncover a Roman house with mosaics, but instead part of a very large fish-salting workshop appeared under a very thick sand dune. Two kilns were discovered inside two large fish-salting vats, showing the reuse of these spaces for a new purpose.
The investigation of this large building restarted in 2014 with the purpose of uncovering the outline of the southwest row of vats. In that same year, the excavation of two small vats revealed remains of fish and pottery that showed that the production had lasted until the end of the 4th century or the first half of the 5th century. In 2015, the excavation of a late floor above the original one revealed its construction with materials from demolitions, including many fragments of mosaic, certainly of the same kind found in the 1970s. The southwest line of vats was finally visible, with six very large ones with an entrance in the middle.
In the 2017 season, the excavation focused on three very large vats and discovered that the southwest wall of these vats was destroyed almost to the bottom, suggesting that for a certain period, after the Roman period, they were in the shoreline and destroyed by tidal action.
These vats revealed several alternate layers of sand and debris deposits and two of them were used to store clay, possibly for the late construction works in the building, like the kilns found in the 1970s. The continuation of the excavation of these three large vats will be the first goal of the campaign in 2018. Under the visible clay, mortar and sand layers, it will be possible to find garbage layers and, hopefully, fish remains on the floor, and finally expose the vats. The other goal is to excavate another vat west of the entrance to the workshop.
Students will be taught all the tasks concerning the excavation, and they will contribute to the discovery and interpretation of one of the largest workshops fish-salting production center of Tróia.