Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ulysses-adorned amphitheater found near Fiumicino airport

Somehow with all the bustle that always accompanies the approaching holidays I somehow missed seeing this notice of a marvelous find of a "mini-Colosseum" near Rome's Fiumicino airport reported a few months ago. When I visited Ostia in March 2009, I remember reading that much more of the ancient port remained unexcavated because it lay under the Fiumicino airport.

This small amphitheater, however, is considered part of the ancient Roman port of Portus that actually succeeded Ostia as the Roman Empire's primary port at the mouth of the Tiber River in the second century CE.

Apparently, the site was originally discovered in the 1860s but has remained largely undisturbed since then. Now, researchers have been able to employ 3-D geophysics, computer visualization, environmental analysis and digital recording as well as archaeology excavation to reveal the details of what became one of the largest maritime infrastructures of the ancient world.

"With the help of ground penetrating radar, the archaeologists have uncovered luxuriously decorated rooms, a colonnaded garden, a finely carved marble head, possibly depicting the Greek hero Ulysses, and a well-preserved toilet, designed to be used by three people at a time.

"The toilet belonged to the palace. It is located between the amphitheater and a porticoed garden. It is really an impressive building, with marbled floor and walls," said Simon Keay, project director and leading expert in Roman archaeology at the University of Southampton.

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