Forum of Peace

7 things you need to know about Forum Pacis dig in Rome

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.

archeobloggers_Forum Pacis

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.

Menorah_Titus Arch

Forum Pacis

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

Forma Urbis wall

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.

Flotation_ Forum Pacis

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.

Leveling staff_Forum Pacis

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 😉

Rota_Forum Pacis
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.

Pottery_Forum Pacis


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.

Palatine Hill view from Forum Pacis

7. The view is simply breathtaking!


Original post by Astrid D’Eredità (@astridrome)
Translation from Italian and editing by Domenica Pate (@domenica_pate)

Day of Archaeology 2015. Templum Pacis (Rome)

24th July was the Day-of-Archaeology 2015, a day that promotes archeology worldwide. A crowds event born on twitter in 2011, virtually brings together archaeologists of the world and shows them at work: a live story of who is and what the archaeologist does, without filters.

An opportunity to share the value of the profession of archaeologists … a tool to imagine how it SHOULD be for our cultural heritage: alive, vital, essential for our everyday life, to know ourselves, in the sense of community, but also to know themselves as individuals.

I’m Francesca Pontani archaeologist and blogger (for ArcheoTime Blog and for ArcheoTime youtube channel) and so I opened my social media “windows” to show the archaeological dig at the Templum Pacis in Rome, the Forum erected by the Emperor Vespasian to celebrate his victories in Palestine.

All this to let everyone to know what an archaeologist is and what archaeologist really do within eight hours of their life on the dig site (7:30 am to 16:30 pm), a small microcosm in which different skills act and work together.

All this to try to promote a new way of living and feel the excavation site: not a place off limits, outside of the daily reality of all of us, but a place “to live in”. It would be nice, in fact, plan the public opening of excavation sites just to see archaeologists at work.


the great hall of the Forum of Peace (Rome)
(copyright Francesca Pontani-ArcheoTime)


A Day by an Archaeologist

The day begins at 7:30 am and tasks are distributed to allow everyone to experience various fields: excavation, survey sections, relief of the elevations, washing and labeling shards, cataloging, study of materials (marble, bone, bronze, clay, etc. etc.).

Sitting on your knees (because you cannot sit comfortably on the ground, as you could ruin stratigraphy) with gentle but firm wrist to take away various stratigraphic levels with the trowel. As you progress with brush and trowel you verse all in the bucket, but always eyes glued to the ground ready to seize upon some fragment / important findings to be delivered immediately to the person responsible for the sector of excavation, to proceed to cataloging.

Filled the whole bucket of earth, it proceeds to screening in more detail to retrieve the recoverable; finally, you go to the wheelbarrow where you verse the whole. Then (if it is your turn) vigorously you grab the wheelbarrow and overturn it into the “dump” of excavation.


There is then the Flotation which is a method of sieving with water of a matrix (archeological site), which allows you to recover organic and inorganic materials from the sediment. The materials with lighter gravity than water are floated. The soil layer is removed and placed in a container that is filled with water. It removes the outcropping through a fine mesh strainer.


the Flotation
(copyright Francesca Pontani-ArcheoTime)

These are the first levels of intervention on the archaeological dig; moments physically demanding but very important for the documentation. This is because the excavation is a destructive process: if the data is not properly documented as they proceed, all will be lost. And that’s why each layer is documented by photographs, floor plans and reliefs in section: to have every little element then able to reconstruct, to the computer, the original situation.


The ceramic fragments collected are then washed and dried. Then each fragment is labeled writing the US (= stratigraphic unit) number, the abbreviation of the archaeological excavation site and the year, so that even if the contents of the cassettes are accidentally mixed, even after time, we still could reconstruct the arrangement of the materials.

Because every little piece, however small, has its dignity and is fundamental to reconstruct History: because this is archeology, not the search for hidden treasures, but reconstruction through clues. Compiling of cards to document ceramics classes (fire, tableware, land sealed, heavy showcase, thin walls, black paint, etc. Etc.), for each class of pottery notes the number of fragments and the type of the fragments present (lips, tracks, walls, loops, etc.): all data is extremely important and fundamental. Then the ceramic materials are bagged and settled into boxes.


Another important clue is the animal bones that give us much information. Here the Temple of Peace, for example, tells us about the type of power supply in the XIth century at the Forum of Peace. In fact during the Middle Ages the Templum Pacis became a residential area. In the bones have been discovered traces of combustion: then they “tell” us that before being eaten, meat was cooked on the barbecue. Then remains of marine and terrestrial molluscs, pigs, sheep, birds were also found – animals show us what Romans ate in the Middle Ages.


… That’s how all these “cold” data can reconstruct the emotions and thoughts … the invisible footprints left behind by the Romans who lived here, what they believed, what they thought, what they ate and how they lived.

The Forum of Peace

The Forum of Peace, also known as Templum Pacis, was built in the 1st century AD by Vespasian to celebrate his victories in Palestine. The cult statue of the goddess Peace was on the top of a high podium with the sacred symbols of the temple of Jerusalem: the Ark of the Covenant and the menorah, the seven-branched candelabrum. All objects disappeared along with the statue of Peace, during the looting suffered by Rome in the 5th century AD.


The Forma Urbis Severiana was on that wall (on left)
(copyright Francesca Pontani-ArcheoTime)

Here we are in the great hall that served as a temple, at the end of a wide square porticoes  with bushes and flowers in the middle. The front of the hall was decorated with colossal Egyptian red granite columns (high more than those of the Pantheon), aligned in two rows. Today we see them on the ground because of earthquakes, but even so, they tell us about the power of the Roman emperor: the columns were quarried in Aswan (southern Egypt) and transported in special ships along the Nile, then on the Mediterranean, and to the Tiber River, upstream to the center of the port in the Imperial Rome.


in the great hall of the Forum of Peace and sight of Basilica of Massenzio.
(copyright Francesca Pontani-ArcheoTime)

A fine colored marble floor decorated the hall.

In the Forum of Augustus and Caesar it was administration of justice: but, here, at the Forum of Vespasian it would seem not. In fact the Forum Vespasian was a sanctuary and a place for study and meditation, as well as a public museum, according to the ideal of spreading culture: a rich collection of works of Greek sculptors and painters was distributed within the complex.

Some authors tell us that there was a library at the side of the Peace statue and, above all, the famous Forma Urbis Severiana: a floor plan of the buildings and streets of Rome, engraved on marble, built by Septimius Severus in 203-211 AD.


the floor of the auditorium, made of large circles in colored marble.
(copyright Francesca Pontani-ArcheoTime)

The Day of Archaeology at Templum Pacis in Rome

We are archaeologists and bloggers, and we think archaeology must be open and inclusive, that it must engage the wider public and society as a whole, because we retrace the past but we live in the present, and sharing is caring, isn’t it?

The archaeologists working at Templum Pacis (also known as Forum of Vespasianum) in Rome obviously care too, and so on July 24th, for the first time ever, an archaeological excavation located on the famous road Via dei Fori Imperiali opened its gates and let both journalists and bloggers in.

[How does an archaeological dig work? The archaeobloggers were free to wander inside the excavation area and ask questions]

[The Forma Urbis Romae, a map of ancient Romae dated 203-211 CE, hanged from this wall]

Professione Archeologo had the honour to be among them and we spent our Day of Archaeology there, where students from Roma Tre University and the American University of Rome are currently digging under the supervision of professor Riccardo Santangeli Valenzani, dr. Rossella Rea and field manager Giulia Facchin.

[Archaeobloggers with field manager Giulia Facchin]

Coincidentally, it was the last day of digging for the summer, and so the closing day became also a good opportunity to meet the public. Some of the students ventured outside the excavation area and down on the street to meet tourists and bystanders to explain what archaeologists do on an excavation. Journalists, with their cameras and blocknotes, and the archaeobloggers (and an artblogger!), with their smartphones and phone chargers, were left to freely explore inside the excavation area and ask questions of the archaeologists.

We asked the students to show us the different activities that usually happen on a dig, how the finds are cleaned up, where they are stored, how they can help archaeologists understand the way ancient Romans lived. We took pictures, wrote tweets, recorded short videos and broadcasted it all via live-tweets, Periscope streaming video, Instagram, and Facebook using the hashtag #ForumPacis.

[Flotation and sifting in water. This is how you’re sure you’re not missing anything]

[One of archaeologists’ favourite jobs when the weather is really hot: finds washing in water]

The Day of Archaeology is also a good chance to reflect about our work and to claim back our identity as archaeologists, trying to imagine what archaeology can be in the future and what it can represent for the future of our society.

So we also asked the students working at Templum Pacis, archaeologists “in progress”, what they want archaeology to be, what’s lacking at the moment in the current practice of it, and what path they foresee going forward.

[The mandatory selfie at the end of the morning]

Below you’ll find their answers, their faces and their smiles, their certainty that archaeology looks back at the past in order to build the future.


What’s archaeology for you? And how do you want it to be?


Original post by Antonia Falcone (@antoniafalcone) and Paola Romi (@OpusPaulicium)
Translation from Italian and editing by Domenica Pate (@domenica_pate)
Graphics by Antonia Falcone