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The Harbor and Fishery Remains at Cosa, Italy

Anna Marguerite McCann
Journal of Field Archaeology
Vol. 6, No. 4 (Winter, 1979), pp. 391-411
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
DOI: 10.2307/529424
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/529424
Page Count: 21
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The Harbor and Fishery Remains at Cosa, Italy
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Abstract

This article is a précis of the publication of the excavations at the Roman port of Cosa in Italy now being prepared by the author and 21 specialists in various fields. The excavations were begun in 1968, following a survey in 1965 both on land and underwater. The port, presumably founded with the early Latin colony on the hill above in 273 B.C., is the earliest Roman harbor thus far known. The remains of the port are described along with its concrete masonry piers which probably date from the late 2nd or early 1st century B.C., supplying the earliest dated evidence for the use of tufo and pozzolana concrete in water. Some 250 m. behind the port across the sand dunes, lies an ancient fishing lagoon, now silted over. The excavations have revealed the earliest commercial Roman fishery thus far discovered, equipped with long fish tanks and a fresh water spring contained in a Spring House on its western embankment. The discovery within the house of the remains of a wooden water-lifting device known as a saqiya from its common Arabic term, is a unique find. It provides the earliest archaeological evidence for this device still in use today. The identification of the Portus Cosanus as the likely manufacturing and distribution point for the famous Sestius amphora jars suggests that Cosa was a key trading center during the late Republic for fish products as well as wine. The earliest material from the port dates to the 3rd century B.C. with the latest material dating in the 3rd century A.C. The main period of its prosperity, documented largely by the unusual concentration of the Sestius amphora fragments, is dated from the late 2nd century B.C. through sometime in the later 1st century B.C. There was a revival of activity in the port and lagoon fishery by the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.C. when the unexcavated seaside villa on the beach at Cosa, as well as others in the area, were flourishing. This chronology varies somewhat from that so far presented for the city site on the hill where a total destruction in the 60s B.C. has been suggested. Besides the amphora material from the port, our other finds, which include some Arretine and Late Italian Terra Sigillata, indicate that the city and port do not follow a parallel development. In the last analysis, the port emerges as a separate site.

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