To celebrate the Day of Archaeology the students of Rome Tre University and the American University of Rome put down their trowels and acted as guides to show off the results of their excavation at the Forum of Vespasian (aka Templum Pacis) in the centre of Rome. As well as passing tourists, the media showed up and also many fellow archaeologists took the time to come and look. Even the weather co-operated! For much of the last two weeks the daytime temperatures have been more than 38C (100F) but after rain during the night, the centre of Rome was much cooler.
The excavated area that visitors could see is just outside the Roman Forum. It was built by the Emperor Vespasian to celebrate his victory at Jerusalem and at one time this area held the sacred items he took from the Temple at Jerusalem, such as the Menorah and the Ark (which unfortunately have long since disappeared). In one part of the excavation we have reached the marble pavement of the original forum. Overlying this are the remains of makeshift buildings that occupied the space after the forum went out of use.
Today the area is dominated by a wide boulevard that was constructed by Mussolini. In order to create this space all of the 18th and 19th century buildings which had characterized this area were demolished and the ground was leveled using the debris. Looking at the section which separates the dig area from the present ground level, you can get some idea of the tremendous amount of fill that has been removed in order to arrive at the in situ layers of the medieval period. Another difficulty is that the stratigraphy is disrupted by robber trenches, and much of the marble and foundation stonework was removed to be used in later constructions. The very large circular hole in the upper area is caused by a robber trench to extract a large column fragment.
The vividly coloured marble of the Roman pavement makes an immediate impression but, in many ways, it is the information from the makeshift buildings and sparse remains of the succeeding era which is most interesting. We know so little about the texture of daily life in this period that every small piece of evidence is exciting.
Thank you to everyone who came to visit our dig this morning, on what is the last day of the summer season. Prof Riccardo Santangeli Valenzani and his team look forward to next year’s Day of Archaeology when we can give you all an update.
Best wishes from the Templum Pacis 2015 team and special thanks to Soprintendenza Speciale per il Colosseo, il MNR e l’Area Archeologica di Roma and particularly Dott.ssa Rosella Rea for allowing us to participate in this very special experience.