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A New Excavation


The Background

Early Research

The First Season (2002)

The Archaeological Investigations of 2003


Early Research

In October, 2001, Architect Silenzi and Professor Packer investigated several possible excavation areas. They began with the local streets. Unfortunately, 21st  century services (electrical conduits, telephone lines, gas mains, sewers, and water pipes) occupy these areas. Permission to close parts of the local piazzas or streets, disrupt traffic, and bypass the subterranean systems would, therefore, be difficult to obtain – as much for political as for practical reasons  and, if granted, would require expensive rerouting and restoration of the buried infra-structure. Next they examined the wedge-shaped cellar rooms (under the cavea of the Theater accessible from Ristorante Da Pancrazio.

Palazzo Pio    
Fig. 3. Palazzo Pio and the beginning of Via dei Giubbonari looking SE.
Plan of the Theater of Pompey   Plan of the remains of the Theater
Fig.  4. Plan of the Theater of Pompey and Palazzo Pio. The rooms in blue on the left can  be reached from “Ristorante Da Pancrazio”.   Fig. 5. Plan of the remains of the Theater of Pompey (room Nos. 10-19 accessible from “Ristorante da Pancrazio)”.

At the west end of Room 12, investigators from the University of Washington’s Rome Center (housed in Palazzo Pio) had dug a shallow pit (1.50 m deep, 1 m wide) revealing part of an ancient door lintel.  As shown by Baltard’s plan of 1837, this door and the space behind it led to still buried sections of the Theater. The sides of the pit, however, indicate that the concrete floors in Room 12 and in the adjoining chambers, combining mortar with pieces of ancient vaults, form a stratum approximately 3-5 m. deep. Since the pit in Room 12 had cleared and opened the upper part of the door, the chamber beyond was partially visible  and it also was blocked with the same concrete fill. To break through this solid mass was impossible. Without appreciable scientific results, such work could weaken the structure of the Pio Palace. It would also be extremely expensive, and the noise from pneumatic drills would seriously disturb the buildings tenants.

Cellar room
Fig. 6. Pio Palace, Cellar room No.12, the top of the partially buried Pompeian door.
  Excavation Area
Fig. 7. Plan of the Theater of Pompey showing the Excavation Area.

With the help of Massimo Giannelli, consulting engineer for Tata Giovanni, Architect Silenzi and Prof. Packer subsequently located a previously unknown subterranean chamber accessible from the main entrance of Palazzo Pio at Piazza Biscione, 95. Undocumented, even by the indefatigable Baltard, this space (hereafter the Excavation Area) was unpublished. It has an intact barrel vault  and, while covered with rubble, its earth floor offered relatively easy access to the archaeological strata below. Parallel to Room 12 and its neighbors, this space was probably a part of the ambulacrum. From it, some of the ground floor openings on the facade might be accessible, and, adjacent to the facade, fallen architectural fragments from the Theater’s upper stories might appear.
Its location and structure thus recommended this space as a suitable site for excavation.

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