Map by R. Wilkinson, circa 1794


She is participating in the Santa Susan Archaeological Project in Redondo, Portugal.

Entry 1

       Santa Susana is a small town in Portugal, currently receiving archaeological attention. It is believed that this small town was once home to a Roman villa. The dates have yet to be determined, though the archaeologists on site place it some where between the 1st century BC and about the 5th century AD. However, we have recently excavated a portion which might give the villa an even earlier date, possibly dating it to even before Roman occupation. Currently, at this early stage, there are only three sections in progress, and we are only excavating two of them. We have begun to expand both sections, section C more significantly than section A. During the expansion we found lots of pottery pieces and building materials. Most of the pottery is Roman, however, we did find some 17th century pottery, showing that the site was still in use in post Roman times. The beautiful church currently on the villa site also dates to the 17th century. Meaning, it has not been renovated since this time, it is believed that the foundation is much earlier.
       One of the problems facing this site is the fact that they only have a small window in which to work. That is, their dig season is quite short, the last couple of seasons have only gone for four weeks. This time, however, they have a six week dig period. Although the season is longer, the time allotted is limited, since digging can only happen in the mornings, due to the scorching heat. Due to the sites time restraint only so much can happen in such a short period of time, however, the site has revealed some interesting things and is still revealing many interesting archaeological finds and information. There is a lot we can learn from further study of Santa Susanna, we can especially learn more about the life of those living in Roman occupied Portugal.
     Another problem facing the Santa Susanna Archaeology site is looting. Though not looting in the sense that robbers came in the night and steal  valuable pieces they could then sell on the black market. The kind of looting facing the Santa Susanna project is looting by the previous owners of the land, who dug up large stones and pieces of brick in order to use in the construction of their own home. In some cases we can often find the old Roman villa pieces built into the new home, but most of the time we are left with giant wholes in the ground of areas we have excavated. For example one of the baths in section A has a huge hole in the middle of the floor. The repurposing of materials, though economically beneficial to the ‘robber’ is detrimental to our investigations.
       The end goal for the archaeologists running the site, is to convert a section of the old barn house on site into a museum, they hope to tare down the remaining section. Since it is believed that the foundation for the villa continues underneath it.
       Though I have only been on site for  a week, I would still recommend this experience to anyone even remotely interested in the past. It is entirely a unique experience. When you have personally pulled something from the ground and realize this was used hundreds of years ago, you really get a sense of history and its relevance to our own modern chunk of the world.

Entry 2

Indiana Jones lied. Real archaeology is nothing like an Indiana Jones movie, you will not be running from giant boulders or chased by angry Nazis. It is hard work, everyone morning you will need to wake up early, so that you can beat the sun. Some days are spent scrapping and cleaning dirt, only to turn around and do it all over again. Even though I have not painted a rather brilliant or exciting picture of real archaeology, it does not mean it is not all that. In fact it is extremely exciting, and when you actually find something, be it a pottery shard, Roman brick or the holy grail of finds, an actual coin, it can be even more fantastic than an Indiana Jones movie. The sheer euphoria of pulling something ancient, that has weathered the test of time, out of the ground, is so completely satisfying. One of the girls on the dig discovered a small section of mosaic, not only was she euphoric, but its discovery in-sighted excitement all through the other excavators. Every time a coin was found, everyone gathered around to inspect and learn about it, instilling in everyone a new sense of determination to find their own piece of history.

What was so great about this experience and why I would recommend it to anyone interested in archaeology, is the fact that it allows for students to put theory into practice. It does this in a none threatening and safe environment, students are encouraged to ask questions and touch artifacts, they are pushed to be part of the discovery instead of always learning about it from a book. Though of course theory is important, this experience allows for practice and theory to meet. While on the dig I learned about different types of pottery, though some are extremely close in looks they often times have a different feel to them, some are grainy, while others are smooth. Being on site and working in the lab, I learned how to distinguish the two. We found quite a bit of terra sigillata on site. Another great thing about this experience, is the fact that anyone who is even slightly interested in archaeology, including Indian Jones fans with zero actual archeological experience,  can join and learn something new. Through out the course of dig session, we were given helpful lectures by our wonderful directors, in order to supplement some of the knowledge we may have been missing in terms of the excavation. Emma Ljung gave a wonderful lecture on surveying, explaining some of the methods used in order to perform the task.  Joey Williams gave an equally wonderful lecture on pottery, in it he explained how it has a primary and secondary life, he also tried to teach us how to distinguish different types of pottery.

Not only did this experience allow students to combine both practical and theoretical knowledge, but it also taught us about the culture, both the past and the present. The locals were welcoming and tried their best to interact with us, even though there was often a clear language barrier. Though this pushed us to try harder and maybe even pick up some of the local language. During my stay there was a festival in the small town we stayed in, it was dedicated to one of the local saints. We were welcomed into their celebrations and the local people even tried to teach us how to dance properly. This was a great experience and though it felt too short, it was definitely memorable.


She is working with the Sanisera Archaeology Institute. Her program began in Sanitja in Menorca, Spain and continued to Baia, near Pompeii, Italy. So her experience spans both the Balearic islands and the Italian Peninsula!

Notes On The Two Entries:

 Please be advised that due to the sensitivity of the research fieldwork, both for confidentiality purposed and to protect the underwater archaeological site from potential looters, the entries have selectively limited information on the daily journals, and how the activities were conducted.

Bushra's Underwater Fieldwork Research

Entry 1


Under-water Fieldwork Research 


Both theoretical and practical knowledge of underwater archaeology were gained through this fieldwork research, along with the necessary completion of a diving certification through the International Diving Association (IDA).

The course comprised of three primary elements; underwater methodologies, underwater reconnaissance, and an overall site survey, which included daily lectures and in-water exercises. Within the lectures, topics such as an introduction to the history of Menorca, Roman Pottery identification, underwater archaeological survey, planning and excavating techniques, the application of marine geophysics, and the use diver tracing systems in archaeology were covered. In addition, a more focused topic of Mediterranean shipbuilding techniques were also introduced through the restoration of older vessels.

The underwater archeological activities took place within the Roman port of Sa Nitja, S’Almadrava, Cala Viola in Menorca, Spain and in Portus Iulius (Baia Underwater park), and Naples Bay, Italy. The amount of time dedicated to lectures and archeological excursions totaled forty hours, and time dedicated to the conservation and restoration of Mediterranean shipbuilding techniques (which were constructed in 1850),comprised of a total of twenty five hours. The amount of in-water time dedicated to underwater archaeological fieldwork was forty three hours.

 Portus Iulius 'Underwater Pompeii'  Research Highlights:

The Portus Iulius fieldwork research primarily focused on Horea Area1, which comprised of a total of five rooms including the connecting corridors and staircases. As part of the ground breaking research, each room was properly measured and mapped for the first time in Portus Iulius history. The artifacts found in the area helped to reveal the types of activities historically done on the port.  For example, marble pieces found in the Horea indicate a storage area reserved specifically for new marble, as it was not normal to have used marble in port construction. Additionally, the type of marbles found further indicate clues to the history of the port. Marbles such as, White Rome, Green Greece, and Yellow Sisley,  Giallo Antico. Furthermore, the lack of roof-tiles and bricks in the area indicate scavenging, since it can be assumed that they were taken by the locals, likely after the port was abandoned due to the effect of bradyseism after the Vesuvius explosion that took place in 79 AD2.

Other types of pottery found in the area were common Italian wares from the first century BC, African Cookware from the second to fourth century AD, and Italic Tesi from the  first century BC to the first century AD. The type of amphoras found were Betic Dressel 7-11 from the first century BC to the first century AD. Italic Dressel 2-4 from the first to second century AD, and Greek Dressel 2-4 from the first century BC to the first century AD. The tesali pieces also indicate the possibility of a mosaic floor. Further clarification or details of this research are confidential and can not be disclosed.

                Picture Highlights from Pozzuoli, and Naples


1. The Horrea area was part of the city port used for unloading goods, such wine was put in one room to be transferred to other area, and the rooms were used as a last stop before selling their goods in the local market and broader distribution on the global scale. It is known that the port was used for three different purposes; private, military, and public. However, the biggest port of the city was called Autia port which had fifteen Horreas for all three different purposes. 


2. Mount Vesuvius is part of the Campania Region of Italy which is known for the volcanic activities. When Mount Vesuvius exploded in 79 AD, it affected Stabia, Herculano, and Pompeii. Following the eruption, bradyseism occurred in the area, which affected Portus Iulius (since it is located close to Pompeii). The ancient geographer and philosopher, Strabo talked about fire, thermal water and sulfur in the Ancient Biblica of Phleagan Bradyseism, and given the mythological notions of the era, he believed it was actually the remains of Jupiter’s lighting in the Titans war. And on 1539, Mount Nuovo (which means New Mountain) appeared in two days.  On the first day, the ground rose about four meters, and then retracted by six meters, thus the entire Roman portof Portus Iulius Sank under water. For the past five centuries the area has been continually affected by the shifting of the ground levels, both rising and descending.  Since the sixteenth century there have been no significant changes in the Phlegrean Bradyseism, but in 1970 the ground of the Portus Iulius rose high enough, that ships were unable to enter the Naples harbor, and fishes even died because of the extreme temperature change of the sea water. It should also be noted that the lack of fish and marine life in the area, caused both by this event and the act of over-fishing in Mediterranean sea, has resulted in the extinction of the sharks in the region.




Entry 2

While in Menorca, the first three days were spent obtaining the diving certification through the IDA, which was followed by both a practical and a written exam. Upon passing the exam, the next five days were divided among lectures, lab time, and underwater fieldwork research.


My diving training site before joining  the rest of my team. 


During the lectures, the history of Menorca was discussed including the archeological involvement of Sanisera Institution in the island. The island is protected, and is considered a UNESCO heritage site, therefore no commercial buildings are allowed to be developed on the island. The island is abundantly full of pottery remains and additionally, fragments of human bones can also be easily found on the grounds. It is unbelievable to walk along throughout the island and easily find pieces of pottery which can be dated back to the first century BC. Its truly a great place for any lover of archeology.


 Piece of human rib found on the pathway

To shed a little light on the archeological history of Menorca, it was during the last Punic war (which occurred during the second and first century BC), that Roman victory greatly changed the economic dynamics of the area. Upon Roman victory, ancient trades were altered, resulting in an increase in international trade. For example, Sanisera has materials from Italy, Ibeiza (a Spanish Mediterranean island on the east coast of Spain), Iberia (included Spain, Portugal, and the British Crown colony of Gibraltar) all dating from before the fourth century BC.

From the first to the second century AD, the Roman Empire controlled most of the Mediterranean sea, and therefore many of the amphoras found in the region dating from this period were obtained from Spain. From the fourth to third centuries AD, a few members of the Greek and Phoenician cultures started colonizing the western Mediterranean sea, resulting in a number of amphoras from this era are from the Greek and Punic colonies.

Following the third and fourth century AD, the Roman empire was increasingly loosing control over the region, and as a result the production of amphoras from Tunisa (in northern Africa) increased. Thus, from the fifth to the sixth century AD, no underwater remains were found, as the western empire disappeared, and Menorca belonged to the VandaI’s Kingdom (a primarily Germanic culture).

It might come as a surprise, but this small island also has history of Muslim conquest, from 900 to 1250 AD. It was during these years that Muslims controlled the region from Africa to Spain, and near France. The King of Spain from 756-788 was named Abd-ar-Rahman, and was the only survivor of Umayado Meyan family who were slaughtered by Abbasi Dcaliphate. People of all creeds enjoyed tolerance and freedom of religion, and thus throughout Sanisera archeologists have found bodies in graves laid sideways, to face all one direction toward the Kabah house (such Muslim graves were also found in Christian monasteries). There are also remains of mosque buildings near some monasteries.

Other students project- working on the grave of a muslim boy,laid on his side way

Besides spending time in lecture, lab times were another important aspect of this fieldwork research. Classifying different types of amphoras, and pottery remains were discussed and studied to aid in identifying the remains from Portus Iulius during the fieldwork research. The remains of the building structures were also measured and mapped, and a specific form of communicating via sign language, allowed the group members to communicate underwater, ensuring that the mapping and measuring are done accurately. Proper underwater photography of the sites, and pottery remains were also practiced.

Entering proper journal logs were also practiced for underwater research. For example, different underwater archeology techniques of surveying were practiced such as Linear survey, where the surveyors hold a rope in one line, is useful in covering larger areas. Circular survey was also practiced, this survey is useful for findings of remains, and use the location of the material found as an access point.

The water temperature in Menorca was around 14 degrees Celcius, so gloves and hoods were used. There were some sites inhabited by jelly fish, spider fish, and lots of sea urchins, but luckily throughout the underwater research there were no incidents. The maximum depth of the field work dive in Menorca was more or less sixty six feet depth.

Once the tasks and trainings were completed in Menorca, twenty four hours was needed before the flight to Naples, Italy, to avoid the bends or decompression sickness. Once in Italy, another twenty four hours was need before diving, again to avoid the bends. Visiting Pozzuoli (where the Portus Iulius is located) for the first time, and noticing how beautiful the city was, and its richness in ancient history, it was disappointing to find that many of the architectural structures were in shambles and there was little sign of any economic infrastructure occurring in the city. In Pozzuoli each day included two dives a day, and on free days visits to Pompeii city, Museo Archeologico Dei Campi Fliegre, the Roman baths, Parco Archeologico di Baia,the Temple of Diana, and other places were visited. Interestingly, the type of mosaics and construction techniques used in baths, temples, and ancient buildings in Pozzuoli were the same as the Roman construction techniques used underwater in Portus Iulius, such as Opus Reticulatum, opus Vittatum, Opus Tessellatumand others. All of the names were actually very easy to remember since they are used all over the city. During our dive in Portus Iulius, there was no need to wear hood and gloves, as the water temperature was around 19 degrees celsius, and the depth of the water was only twenty feet.


To sum up the entire underwater fieldwork research, it was an experience of a lifetime. The Sanisera school is a wonderful place to do any archaeology fieldwork, and the staff are all friendly and approachable. I would recommend underwater archeology to anyone, but prospective students must keep in mind that they must be fit both mentally and physically, as the course of work requires jumping from the boat backwards, and swimming greater distances with all the gear before descending. Students should not have any sinus problems, when descending to a great depth, since equalizing of the ears is then nearly impossible if there is any blockage in the sinuses.



Last day picture with our boat's helmsman.