Human Interest


Rome's Subway Workers Unearth Archaeological Treasures

June 01, 2008 05:10 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
It is hard to dig anywhere in Rome without stumbling on something of historical value. This makes developing the subway a slow, painstaking process.

30-Second Summary

"There are treasures that would stay buried forever if we didn't have to dig," says Enrico Testa, speaking to Newsweek

Testa is head of Rome's Metropolitane S.p.A., which runs the subway network. That position has brought him an unlooked-for knowledge of Roman archaeology.

Since work on a $4.7 billion subway project began, archaeologists and subway engineers have uncovered remains of imperial homes, Roman tombs containing the remains of two children still encased in the burial amphorae, and the remnants of the medieval Via Flaminia road that once crossed the city, to name a few.

And the discoveries are sure to keep coming, halting progress on the 15-mile subway line scheduled to be completed in 2015. Before construction on the new line even began, developers and archaeologists had to agree on the best way to proceed with the project to protect the ancient relics that might be discovered along the way.

But Rome’s strict conservation laws, requiring every artifact to be studied, do pay off.

Last year, after two years of painstaking technological probing, archaeologists uncovered an underground chamber venerated by ancient Romans as the site where a she-wolf nursed the city’s fabled founders.

The grotto is known in ancient texts as the “Lupercale”—from “lupa,” which is Latin for she-wolf. Discovered just below the ruins of the palatial home of Augustus Caesar, Rome’s first emperor, the partially caved-in sanctuary plays a pivotal role in the Eternal City’s mythology

The cavern is fabled to have been the place where the twin sons of the Roman god Mars—Romulus and Remus—were nursed by a female wolf after being set adrift on the Tiber river by their father.

That Rome’s mythological genesis was re-discovered within the city’s modern limits is a testament to the wealth of artifacts that remain underfoot in the Eternal City.

Headline Link: 'Next Stop, Antiquity Station'

Background: The Lupercale

Historical Context: The founding of Rome

Related Topics: Construction unearths relics in Rome, Cologne and Istanbul

Reference Material: The National Museum of Rome


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