A sinkhole has opened up at Piazza della Rotonda in front of the iconic Pantheon in Rome that has exposed an ancient pavement.

According to Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (ANSA), archaeological investigations have taken place following the opening of the sinkhole, leading experts to believe that the imperial Roman pavestones that have been discovered date back between 27 and 25 B.C. The team found seven slabs of travertine, a type of sedimentary rock.

It is not the first time the area has been studied however, as the first discovery actually took place back in the 1990s, and on that occasion, scientific studies were undertaken to reconstruct the much larger dimensions of the current square in front of the Pantheon. According to experts, the area was completely renovated in the 2nd century AD by the emperor Hadrian, with the square being raised up and repaved.

Roman sinkhole
The wider area was actually discovered in the 1990s © Alessandro Serrano /AGF / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

“After more than twenty years from their first discovery, the slabs of the ancient pavement of the square in front of the Pantheon emerge intact, protected by a layer of fine pozzolan. An unequivocal demonstration of how important archaeological protection is, not only an opportunity for knowledge but fundamental for the preservation of the testimonies of our history, an invaluable heritage in particular in a city like Rome,” Special Superintendent Daniela Porro said about the opening. 

The sinkhole measures nearly ten sq ft and goes down more than eight ft. The opening of sinkholes has been a recurring problem in Rome in recent times, with the cause thought to be underground cavities and the soft sandy soil that the city was built on. 

One upside to COVID19 and social distancing meant that the area was relatively clear of footfall when the cave-in happened, and happily, no one was injured. 

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