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Rome Reports

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Ancient ruins from time of Roman Empire rediscovered in front of Pantheon

Only in a city like Rome does maintenance work on drainage systems end up unearthing second-century monuments. As lockdown restrictions in Italy begin to relax, curious onlookers stop to peek at these ruins. They're part of the ancient square, now buried in front of the Pantheon.

“We found something that had already been partly discovered before. It's the flooring of the square from Hadrian's era, the same period that witnessed the construction of the Pantheon we see today. The paving was made of travertine slabs, which had already been discovered in the 1990s, while the square was being restored.”

Dating back to the time of the Roman Empire, some of these slabs are still in their original positions, exactly where they were placed during Hadrian's reign.

Unlike then, when the square was slightly lower than the Pantheon, the temple now sits slightly lower than the square.

“This shift happened because Rome grew over the centuries. Imperial Rome was covered by medieval Rome, medieval Rome by Renaissance Rome. The temple, on the other hand, which, fortunately, was converted into a church, remained unchanged. It is now one of the best-preserved Roman monuments.”

Even the most seemingly insignificant ceramic fragments are important in determining to which historical period the different layers belong.

“To give a simple example, we are able to recognize our grandparents' fine china by simply looking at one of their plates. We can do the same with ancient ceramics. So, if we know a plate is from, say, the 1800s, then we know the layer in which it's found is also from the 1800s.”

Although the ruins will be reburied once the drains are repaired, Fabio Turchetta reassuringly tells passersby that if they want to see a second-century monument from Hadrian's reign, all they have to do is turn around and look at the Pantheon.