Rome will have what city officials are calling its first “archaeological station” after a construction team recently uncovered 2nd-century CE Roman barracks during ongoing work on the city’s third metro line. Archaeologists and building workers are now working side-by-side on their respective projects to preserve the barracks and prepare for the future; an architect will alter blueprints to integrate the historic site into the structure of the forthcoming Amba Aradam stop, which lies near the Colosseum.
Lying nearly 30 feet underground, the Hadrian-era barracks cover over 10,000 square feet, featuring 39 rooms divided by a corridor decorated with frescoes and floors boasting mosaics. Archaeologists believe the rooms housed the emperor’s Praetorian Guard and their weapons; nearby ground also revealed a grave of 13 adult skeletons, a bronze bracelet, and a Roman coin.
“If we hadn’t built this station, we would never have found these Roman remains,” Rome’s head of archaeology Francesco Prosperetti told CBS News.
Underway since 2007, work on Metro Line C has since faced delays due to factors such as lack of funding. Although this finding will alter the station’s design, excavations of the archaeological site will not further postpone these plans, set to complete in 2021.
The scenario is strangely reminiscent of Frederico Fellini’s 1972 film Roma, where engineers and construction workers building the Roman metro encounter an ancient fresco during their excavations. The delicate works are almost instantly destroyed. Fortunately, in this case, the relics of a bygone age were saved and will now be integrated into the planned station.
Italy’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism has lauded it as “one of the most important archaeological discoveries of recent years in Rome” — but really, we should be more surprised that modern-day construction projects aren’t digging up buried gems more often.