The Roman Coastline

Principal investigator: Rebecca Ferreira
Level: External project (UK only)

This project seeks to investigate the evidence for maritime and maritime-related activities around the English coastline in the c. 400 years of Roman occupation. Reports of Roman finds and of potential Roman shipwrecks regularly appear in publications but there has been little or no synthesis or analysis to establish the veracity of these reports. This project aims to address this situation by undertaking a baseline assessment around the English coast to synthesise all known evidence from a variety of sources and to investigate the nature and extent of any concentrations of material.

The project was commissioned by Historic England (project number: 7547).

Project Aims

As stated, there are a considerable number of reports of finds of Roman material related to maritime activities that have not yet been assessed or collated with any rigour. This project will assess and synthesise these reports to investigate the nature and extent of the evidence and to investigate possible temporal, typological and geographical concentrations that may be indicative of cohesive sites that warrant further examination. This will contribute to two aims of the maritime archaeological research agenda and three of the strategic priorities identified in Heritage 2020 as follows. It will:

  • improve our knowledge and understanding of maritime activities in the Roman era through pro-active research (Heritage 2020 - Discovery, identification and understanding; Helping things to happen);
  • locate evidence for wrecks, submerged sites, marine and coastal installations, anchorage detritus, casual losses etc. (Heritage 2020 - Discovery, identification and understanding);
  • enhance local (HER) and national (NRHE) archaeological datasets (Heritage 2020 - Discovery identification and understanding);
  • provide information to aid future management considerations (including heritage designation and marine planning processes) (Heritage 2020 - Constructive conservation and sustainable management); and
  • enhance public appreciation of the extent and nature of our maritime heritage (Heritage 2020 - Public engagement).


To achieve these aims the project will be undertaken in three phases (see Methods Statement (below) for details):

  • Phase One: baseline assessment and determination of field study areas
    • Evaluation of the potential of areas from which concentrations of Roman material have been recovered, with reference to recent research into maritime activities (e.g. Ellis Jones 2014) to establish whether any are sufficiently robust to signpost the locations of Roman submerged remains.
    • Production of a gazetteer and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping of known and recorded Roman maritime finds from English waters from which the field study areas will be selected for closer investigation.
  • Phase Two: field assessments
    • Liaison with local museums, fishing communities, and diving clubs in the targeted areas to establish the nature, extent, type and location of finds recovered.
    • Site visits to reinforce relationships with these stakeholders, to record recovered finds in detail, and dissemination of results through social media and public lectures as the project progresses.
  • Phase Three: reporting and dissemination
    • The results of the study will be presented in a report including a gazetteer of finds, with GIS mapping of finds locations, analysis of the results and an assessment of their significance; and recommendations for further work.
    • All hard copy and digital data generated by the project will be deposited with Historic England upon completion of the project. Digital data will be prepared following current 'Guidelines for English Heritage projects involving GIS' with data provided on a suitable digital medium in the preferred formats.
    • Where appropriate, newly generated information will be used to update the NRHE, local HER records, and will also be included with the final report for archiving with the Archaeology Data Service (ADS).

Referee: Michael Walsh, Senior Heritage Consultant, Marine (Cotswold Archaeology)

Audit data

  • Created: 2 years ago
  • Created by: Sam Moorhead
  • Updated: 2 years ago
  • Updated by: Sam Moorhead

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