Development and decline of the ancient harbor of Neapolis

Valentino Di Donato, Maria R. Ruello, Viviana Liuzza, Vittoria Carsana, Daniela Giampaola, Mauro A. Di Vito, Christophe Morhange, Aldo Cinque, Elda Russo Ermolli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Archaeological excavations, undertaken since 2004 for the construction of the new Naples subway, have unearthed the harbor basin of the Greco–Roman town of Parthenope–Neapolis, furnishing scientists with the opportunity to recover abundant archaeological remains and a thick succession of diverse infill sediments. The latter underwent sedimentological, paleontological, and volcanological analyses. Compositional data analysis, applied to all three data sets, highlighted three main paleoenvironmental changes in the harbor basin from the Augustan Age up to the 6th century A.D. The beginning of harbor activity is recorded during the 3rd century B.C. when sedimentation was interrupted by intensive dredging of the sea-bottom. The impact of the A.D. 79 Vesuvius eruption, recorded for the first time in the Neapolitan territory, led to a reduction in Posidonia meadows and to an ensuing phase of more restricted water circulation and pollution. At the beginning of the 5th century A.D., an open lagoon environment was established, attesting to coastal progradation. The final closure of this part of the bay occurred at the end of the 5th to the beginning of the 6th century A.D., due to increased alluvial input linked to both natural and anthropogenic causes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)542-557
Number of pages16
JournalGeoarchaeology - An International Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This article is dedicated to the memory of our friend and colleague Paola Romano. C. Morhange thanks IUF, Labex OT-Med (ANR-11-LABX-0061) and the A*MIDEX project (ANR-11-IDEX-0001-02). Daniela Mele of the University of Bari is acknowledged for the SEM investigations on the ash samples. All figures, photographs and data included in this article have officially been authorized by the Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio of Naples. Two anonymous reviewers and the editors are thanked for their comments that greatly improved the original manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • A.D. 79 eruption
  • Greco–Roman period
  • Naples
  • compositional data analysis
  • molluscs, geoarchaeology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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