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From Aquileia to Singidunum (Belgrade), reconstructing the paths of Roman travelers

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - RecRoad (From Aquileia to Singidunum (Belgrade), reconstructing the paths of Roman travelers)

Reporting period: 2016-02-01 to 2018-01-31

The RecRoad project aims to reconstruct the Roman itinerary going from Aquileia, in the north-east of Italy, to Singidunum (Belgrade), on the Danube river. This was one of the main road axes of the Empire and it connected the Venetian area with the Pannonia Superior and the Danubian limes: the road was longer than 450 miles, passing through the Alps, it ran along the river Sava, crossing its course several times. The road’s general layout can be followed in the itinerary sources but an attempt to accurately reconstruct the course of the road on the ground has never been tried before and may greatly improve our knowledge of the evolution of the territories that it crossed over the time. After an in-depth study of the original itinerary of the road, the project aims also at the analysis of the consequences of its construction on the landscape from different point of view (culture, settlement dynamics, religion, trade, …), so that better comprehension of the territorial and cultural connections, will be possible. To reach these goals, the project will consider and use all the sources and the new technologies available to archaeologists, in a multi-disciplinary approach. All the collected and generated information will be geo-referenced and published in an online Atlas.
The output of the project will be published online as part of the IllyrAtlas, an interactive atlas hosted at the Unity Ausohnum of the Ausonius Institute (UMR 5607) of the Université Bordeaux Montaigne. It will be thus possible to visualize the reconstructed route in its geographical context, the reliability degree of the individual segments and the sources that were identified with reference to the single stretch of the road to which they pertain. In addition, new strategies and initiatives for the protection and knowledge dissemination will be developed. For the first time, all the sources today avalaible to archaeologists will be used to identify the original track of a Roman road and to study the importance of the consequences that its presence had on the territory and on the way ancient people conceived the landscape where they lived.
The action finished on 31 January 2018, after achieving the complete mapping of the Roman itinerary. The results will be published on the online atlas over the next weeks.
February – October 2016: the researcher performed a complete screening of the available bibliography about the Roman road network in the research area. This operation was preliminary to the mapping of the already known data about the Roman itinerary from Aquileia to Singidunum. Together with the excavated segments of the road, also the sites and findings that could mark its presence were located within a GIS system (milestones, necropolis, cities, road stations, …). A first mapping platform was developed using the GIS (Geographical Information System) open-source software QGIS, while a blog was opened to disseminate the research process (http://reconstructingromanroads.wordpress.com). At this first stage, the data were stored in shapefile format, but a first structure for the final database was conceived and presented at the 12th Roman Archaeological Conference (Rome, 16-19 March 2016).
After mapping the existing information, it was necessary to integrate it with new data, coming from spatial and satellite remote sensing analyses aimed at detecting and identifying unknown segments of the Roman roads or the most probable paths where the Roman road might lay. All these data were imported too into the GIS platform. The result was a hypothetical mapping of the Roman itinerary, with a detailed definition of the reliability level of the information used.
November 2016 – April 2017: the researcher verified the hypothetical mapping of the Roman itinerary, performing focused surface survey in Slovenia (October 2016) and Serbia (March 2017). The survey enabled the verification of the research results and an update of the data stored in the GIS. The reliability of the mapped itinerary was sensibly increased thanks to the field survey: it was also possible to establish the validity of new remote sensing analysis techniques applied to the Sentinel-2 satellite images for archaeological purposes. Thanks to these images, more than 100 archaeological sites were precisely mapped in the region of Sremska Mitrovica (Serbia).
May 2017 – January 2018: the GIS platform was updated with the results of the surface survey. In the meanwhile, the logical structure of the database was refined. The researcher built the database using Spatialite language, respecting the format already established for the AdriAtlas (http://adriaticummare.org/Map_Adriatlas/) platform.
Dissemination activities: The researcher took part to 4 international conferences.
An international round table was organized by the researcher at Université Bordeaux Montaigne on 15 November 2016: the proceedings of the conference were published at Ausonius Editions and will be released under open-access format after 12 months from the publication. Reference of the proceedings:
Zanni S. é d. La Route Antique et Médiévale : nouvelles approches, nouveaux outils, Bordeaux, 2017
In September 2017, the researcher with a small group of hikers, performed the “Walking like the Romans walked” action: they walked along the Roman itinerary from Aquileia to Belgrade, respecting the stages and stops represented on the Tabula Peutingeriana. It was thus possible to meet the people who live along the way today, telling the story of the project and of the Roman itinerary. Along the journey (27 days, 830 km walked), 5 public conferences were organized and the researcher presented her research in front of journalists and common people from four different countries.
On 29-30 November 2017, a two-days conference was organized by the researcher in Bordeaux and 21 researchers coming from institutes of 4 different countries discussed their results and methods in the field of ancient road networks and infrastructures. The proceedings of the conference will be published as a Supplement of the Journal Aquitania.
The project allowed the collection of all the published data on the Roman itinerary from Aquileia to Singidunum, establishing an up-to-date state of the art that will be free to access for anybody. Before the RecRoad project, all the information related to this itinerary were sparse and fragmented, with a varying resolution and reliability depending on the studies developed on each region crossed by the itinerary. This project was a unique occasion to map all the remains of the Roman itinerary and to try to fill in the gaps. To improve our knowledge of the itinerary’s topography, the researcher applied various remote sensing tools, such as the interpretation of multi-spectral satellite images, LiDAR data analysis, comparison of the information coming from historical maps and surface surveys. The RecRoad project was also a test bench for the application of the Sentinel-2 images in archaeology.
From a societal point of view, the project included several dissemination actions, aimed at communicating the importance of the Roman roads and of the Roman heritage broadly speaking to develop a European sense of identity and of inclusion. The atlas, thanks to the collaboration with the local institutes working at the protection of the archaeological heritage, will also be an innovative tool to reach this goal.
General map of the Roman itinerary from Aquileia to Singidunum
Results of the surface survey from Sirmium to Singidunum