Archaeologists excavating a site in central Rome say they’ve uncovered what may be oldest known temple from Roman antiquity.
Along the way, they’ve also discovered how much the early Romans intervened to shape their urban environment.
The temple – the foundations of which are below the water line — was probably dedicated to the goddess Fortuna. The archaeological team discovered large quantities of votive offerings such as miniature versions of drinking vessels, left not by locals but by foreign traders.
The discovery of the archaic temple’s existence came after years of fundraising in Italy and in the U.S., and it required sophisticated technological know-how.
Last summer, an ambitious joint project of the University of Michigan and Rome archaeology officials finally got under way.
Archaeologist Albert Ammerman, who has excavated numerous sites in Rome, calls it a “mission impossible.”
"They’re digging at the very bottom of this trench, at about 7 and a half feet below the water," he says.
The team used heavy machinery to drill a rectangular hole 15 feet deep. A crane lowered large sheets of metal to keep back the soggy soil.
Terrenato says the archaeologists had to fight claustrophobia to be able to spend as much as 8 hours a day at the bottom of that trench.