I’m a digital archaeologist. I excavated Pagan and Christian tombs, nympheaums, Consular roads, harbor storehouses, and kilns and much more. Then, a few years ago, I left the trench behind and become a different kind of archaeologist: I wrote for museums and for the Web, telling people about ancient Romans and about the archaeologists who help uncover their stories. Along the way, I met other archaeologists who share my passion for communication, like Antonia, Domenica, Francesca and Paola. It’s with them that I spent my Day of Archaeology, using social networks to tell yet another story about archaeologists, this time about the ones who are currently working at the Forum of Peace dig in Rome.
You probably heard of it: it’s a big area, also known as Temple of Peace, erected in the 1st Century CE by the Emperor Vespasian to celebrate his victories in Palestine. It’s located on Via dei Fori Imperiali, the long road that since the Thirties cuts through the heart of the wide archaeological area that lies in the middle of Rome.
We spent the day in a large auditorium (which also functioned as a temple), situated inside the Forum of Peace. Today, the noises of the buses that cross the modern road, the tourists’ chatter, the construction work for the new subway line make it hard to imagine how this ancient part of the city must have looked like centuries ago: what we know is that it was quite big, on the edge of a large square that was surrounded by a portico and had a flower garden in the centre. The space inside the auditorium was dominated by a cult statue of the goddess Peace on a high podium. Here, sacred symbols taken from the Temple of Jerusalem—such as the Ark of the Covenant and the menorah, the seven sticked candelabra—were kept and preserved. These objects, along with the statue of the goddess Peace, disappeared during the sack of Rome in the 5th century.
The excavation, now in its fourth consecutive summer season, is being carried out by the Archaeological Superintendency of Rome and Rome Tre University. Since 2014, they have been joined by students from the American University of Rome.
Below is a list of 7 things you definitely need to know about Forum Pacis dig.
1. First meeting to talk about the last results of the excavation: everyone in the team must know about the latest finds and share their ideas. And that big squared brick thing? It’s the podium of the statue of the goddess Peace
2. The famous Forma Urbis hanged from this wall. It’s a large map of Rome, over 20 m tall and made of 140 marble plates! The big holes accommodated the bronze hooks that supported the plates.
3. The excavation unearthed many traces of hearts, which means that one of the most important activities on the dig is the flotation, that is sifting in water, which helps archaeologists to retrieve even the smallest, but very important, finds such as seeds and bones.
4. Things you shouldn’t do on a dig: stand beside a leveling staff. This way everyone will know how tall (or short!) you really are 😉
5. Anywhere in the Forum you can see traces of the dismantling and reuse of the precious marble decoration from the floor and walls. Where this wide circle lies there was a rota made of porphyry, which was then taken during periods of abandonment of the ancient monument.
6. Cooking pots, African Terra Sigillata, eastern amphorae, lamps. By studying pottery archaeologists can retrace past commercial routes within Mediterranean and recover evidence left by the different peoples who lived in the Empire over the centuries. Turns out, all roads did lead to Rome.
7. The view is simply breathtaking!