Building a new metro line beneath the history-packed streets of Rome involves a few extra challenges, as construction workers discovered on 23 May, when they uncovered the charred ruins of an ancient Roman structure. Archaeologists examining a ten-metre-deep hole dug in via dell’Amba Aradam near the city’s Aurelian walls discovered an early second-century AD building that had been destroyed by fire.
The most impressive finds included the skeleton of a dog that almost certainly perished in the fire crouching in front of a door, frescoed wall fragments, a black-and-white mosaic floor and a collection of rare wooden items, including two tables, a handrail and pieces of the ceiling. The more perishable artefacts, such as the wood and bones, had been carbonised and hardened by the fire, leading to their preservation.
Rome never ceases to amaze. From the Metro construction site the last magnificence: a blast from the past pic.twitter.com/TGxJnF1hBi
— Virginia Raggi (@virginiaraggi) June 26, 2017
The effects of the fire on the building – freezing it at a particular moment in time and preserving some objects within it – led Italy’s culture ministry to describe the discovery as “Pompeii-like”. According to Francesco Prosperetti, the special superintendent for Rome’s archaeological area, “What makes this find resemble Pompeii is that we have evidence of a moment in history. The fire … allows us to imagine life at a precise moment.”
The line between Amba Aradam and the Imperial Forum is due to open in 2021. There are already plans to include finds discovered as part of the construction work in the new stations.