Intensively Cultivated Roman Villae Estates: Case Study of Medulin Bay (Istria, Croatia).

Doneus, N., Doneus, M., 2024. Intensively Cultivated Roman Villae Estates: Case Study of Medulin Bay (Istria, Croatia). Archaeological Prospection.



Our image of the Roman landscape of Istria is characterised by large-scale centuriation and architectural remains of Roman villae. Detection and mapping of other, less dramatic landscape features require systematic large-scale prospection, but this faces significant difficulties in the Mediterranean environment. However, the developments in the field of airborne laser scanning offer the possibility to create archaeologically usable digital terrain models under water and under very dense and low maquis vegetation. This paper reports on the use of terrain models created using a green laser and a sophisticated archaeologically driven ground point filtering strategy. Combined with archaeological aerial photo interpretation, this provides the means for landscape mapping and interpretation that has revealed a wealth of archaeological structures hinting at Roman agricultural practices and landscape. Our case study is based on a laser scan of about 24 km2 of land and underwater terrain in Medulin Bay. Processed, visualised and interpreted for archaeological purposes, the data reveal not only features ranging from prehistoric hilltop settlements to modern military installations but also features a complex picture of the Roman land use. Of particular interest is the large number of planting pits, which extend over a total length of 4 km. They were laid on a regular grid of approximately 35 × 35 m, sometimes combined in contiguous parcels. They can be interpreted as remains of orchards or tree nurseries of Roman date, and the paper examines also the question of whether they can be linked to the associated Roman estates. The case study area presented here shows that the potential of remote sensing methods goes far beyond the mere finding of traditional sites but can open up new landscape-scale perspectives on regions that have been archaeologically little explored.


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