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Archaeologists find an ancient Roman road in the Venetian lagoon

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San Giorgio Maggiore island in the Venetian lagoon in 2019.

San Giorgio Maggiore island in the Venetian lagoon in 2019.
Photo: TIZIANA FABI / AFP (Getty Images)

Researchers have discovered the remains roman era road at the foot of the famous Venetian lagoon. The find provides a clue to what the city looked like in antiquity, long before the legendary date of its foundation in 421. CE.

The Venetian Lagoon is the body of water that hosts Venice, tucked away from the Adriatic Sea by a pair of thin-barrier islands, Lido and Pellestrina. Over the centuries, the water level in the lagoon rose and fell, but mostly rose, erasing old elements of the landscape and creating completely new ones. It also means that the archaeological record is disappointing, with hints of dwelling – the remains of a tower here, scraps of road there – but much of it is hidden beneath the blue-green waves. The team’s recent analysis of these huge underwater features in the lagoon was published today in Scientific Reports.

“We have to imagine a completely different landscape of that time to understand why we find a road, a tower and possibly many other structures along the entrance,” said study co-author Maddalena Bassani, an archaeologist at the Università Iuav di Venice, during a video call. “It is important to try to imagine this different situation in order to support the idea of ​​protecting this place.”

Reconstruction of what the road might have looked like during the Roman Empire (left) and the current location (right).

Reconstruction of what the road might have looked like during the Roman Empire (left) and the current location (right).
Graphic: Fantina Madricardo

The research team scanned the bottom of the Treporti Canal, a waterway several miles east of the city. They found 12 rectangular objects lined up for about three-quarters of a mile, 6 to 60 feet wide. Some of the structures were over 12 feet high, and one was massive with an almost circular ledge. The team suspects that the formation that might sit on the water, based on previous studies of water level changes in the area, could be a harbor structure, possibly a dock.

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“There was very, very little information about the tidal world because the water is very muddy and the currents are very weak.at strong. It is difficult for divers to get there and it is difficult to take samples, ”said Fantina Madricardo, lead author of the study and a physicist specializing in acoustic systems at the Institute of Marine Sciences in Venice, during a video call. “We collected a huge dataset … At some point, I started to analyze the data more thoroughly and saw that there are features that were undoubtedly anthropogenic.”

The Venetian police conducted dives in 2020 to investigate the features the team saw and discovered that some of the linear structures were made of stones similar to Roman ones. basoli, mostly pstones, indicating that the line features were asphalted – ergo, arcrushThere have not yet been any marine archaeologists at this site, although this may still happen. Although the road has not yet been finally dated, amphorae (vases) dating from the 1st century AD have been discovered next to it.

One of the stones found during an inspection by a diving police unit in 2020.

One of the stones found during an inspection by a diving police unit in 2020.
Picture: The Sommozzatori della Polizia di Stato di Venezia team

Roman remains have been found in the lagoon over the centuries, and many of these sites have been repurposed for ongoing construction or new decorations, especially during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Most of the archaeological work in the lagoon is built on the work of the Ernesto Canal, which in the 1960s topped a lot of early research into who inhabited the area prior to the founding of Venice (Canal even suspected that the Roman road lay at the bottom of the lagoon, according to Madricardo). BooMuch information about the Roman dwelling in the area was “gray literature, said Madricardo, information that is included in places not included in published archaeological data. This clouded the knowledge base that the team worked with. Since the days of Canal, archaeological techniques such as remote sensing have been developed, allowing Madricardo’s team to take high-resolution images of the lagoon bottom without worrying about turbidity and before making any dives.

Though the remains of the road lie at different points under the water, Madricardo said, this is not necessarily the place where the road passed. when it was used. The land on which Venice is located is prone to natural subsidence.which may be accelerated by anthropogenic changes to the landscape. The fall of Venice is an existential problem today, but it also affects how the archaeological team interprets this flooded site. According to paleoclimatological data, they know that the road followed what was once a beach that slopes into a lagoon, but when the structure slipped under the waves, it is still a matter of controversy. Researchers wrote that shelling him would have accelerated his fall, but more research would probably be needed to figure out the exact events that led to the disappearance of Roman dwellings near Venice.

Read more: Flood-hit Venice is worst in 50 years


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