HE IS the man at the forefront of unearthing Europe’s Roman ports.

Professor Simon Keay, of the University of Southampton, was awarded €2.49 million of European Research Council funding to study a large network of Roman ports in the Mediterranean – stretching from Turkey in the east, to Spain in the west.

Now Prof Keay has has been elected a fellow of the British Academy in recognition of his groundbreaking research.

In total, the Roman Mediterranean Ports project is examining 31 ports in nine different countries including Ephesus, Pitane and Kane in Turkey, Gades and Tarraco in Spain and Portus and Putroli in Italy.

The project will use satellite imagery and archaeological data to study the remaining 23 ports in France, Egypt, Tunisia, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Libya, Israel and Greece.

Prof Keay is leading the project in very close collaboration with ancient historian professor Pascal Arnaud from the Université de Lyon La Lumière, France, and will analyse key Greek and Latin texts to find out more about the ports. His 15 years of re-search into Roman ports has culminated in this project.

Research will last until 2018 and will concentrate on the first two centuries AD, considering the layout, activities, hierarchies and commercial and social connections made between Roman ports.

Experts hope the study will be presented in a virtual environment online, including the university’s archaeological computer visualisations.

Professor Keay is also the director of the Arts and Humanities Research Council funded Portus Project.

He has been working at Portus, the ancient port of Rome, since 1998.

His team has uncovered an historically important 2nd century Roman shipyard there.

Bigger than a football pitch, it would have built or maintained the ships that helped command one of the most successful empires the world has ever known.

It is so grand that archaeologists think 2,000 years ago it might have been a base for galleys that transported emperors across the empire on their way to places like Britain.

In recent years his research there has attracted much media attention, including a major BBC documentary.

A specialist in Roman archaeology and associate dean for research and enterprise in the university’s faculty of humanities, Prof Keay has been awarded the honour in recognition of his outstanding contribution to research.

The British Academy has elected a total of 66 fellows this year, including 42 distinguished UK academics, spanning the breadth of the humanities and social sciences.

Professor Keay said: “It is a great honour, and I hope that it will give me the opportunity to help further raise the high profile of archaeology and humanities at Southampton within the broader academic community in the UK and beyond.”

Professor Keay, who is also research professor and director of archaeology at the British School at Rome, has been the principal investigator on numerous international archaeological research projects.

These include, the Ager Tarraconensis survey, Urban Connectivity in Iron Age and Roman Southern Spain, and Roman Towns in the Middle and Lower Tiber Valley.

He has directed excavations and geophysical survey at a range of sites in Spain and Italy.

Professor Keay will be formally admitted as a fellow of the British Academy in late September.