Roman Period Porto Rafti: Results of the Bays of East Attica Regional Survey, 2019 - 2022 (20 min)


Joseph Frankl, University of Michigan


Traditional scholarly narratives have represented the Roman period in Attica as an era of political decadence and economic decline. New assessments of archaeological and documentary evidence, however, are demonstrating the region’s dynamism, replacing these stale narratives with specific accounts of social, political, and economic processes. The results of the Bays of East Attica Regional Survey (BEARS) make a significant contribution to this evolving understanding of Roman Attica. The project’s investigation and interpretation of Roman-period remains in modern Porto Rafti confirm the existence of a thriving coastal community that populated the area between the fourth century C.E. through the seventh century C.E. The project's data, collected over three field seasons, attest to the community's variegated land use at several nodes within the Porto Rafti Bay and its broader catchment area. Most notably, several islets in the bay demonstrate a diversity of ancient activities, with evidence for apiculture, permanent habitation, and tile production. In addition, investigation of the bay’s hinterland indicates the existence of isolated farmsteads or semipermanent habitation related to agricultural production. Ceramic assemblages recovered from areas of Roman activity in the bay also suggest local engagement in Aegean and Mediterranean exchange networks; these assemblages include a diversity of imports from southern Greece, western Asia Minor, the Levant, the Northern Balkans, and North Africa. The results of BEARS fieldwork show that Porto Rafti was the site of an important port settlement in Late Antiquity that supported a mixed-economy for several hundred years. As part of a regional change settlement in eastern Attica beginning in the fourth century C.E., the community at Porto Rafti likely played a key role in facilitating the link between maritime and terrestrial networks of mobility and exchange.