An ancient Italian town whose remains are buried beneath the earth has been mapped by a team of researchers, revealing evidence of a bustling social and economic settlement 1,500 years ago.An ancient Italian town, which disappeared after its abandonment 1,500 years ago and now lies buried underground, has been mapped by researchers, revealing the location of its theatre, marketplace and other buildings.
Originally founded as a Roman colony in the 4th century BCE, the site of Interamna Lirenas lies in the Liri Valley in Southern Lazio, about 50 miles south of Rome itself. After it was abandoned around the year 500 CE, it was scavenged for building materials and, over time, its remains were completely lost from view. Today, the site is an uninterrupted stretch of farmland, with no recognisable archaeological features.
Now, researchers have successfully produced the first images of the ancient site, using geophysical methods that allowed them to look beneath the surface of the earth and map the layout of the entire settlement, which spans 25 hectares.
Close-up of the street layout showing the outline of individual buildings : University of Cambridge
The resulting pictures have already thrown up a few surprises. Earlier scholars had previously imagined that the Roman town of Interamna Lirenas was something of a sleepy backwater, but the large marketplace and theatre instead suggest that, in fact, it was a bustling economic and social centre in its own right.
"Having the complete streetplan and being able to pick out individual details allows us to start zoning the settlement and examine how it worked and changed through time," Martin Millett, Laurence Professor of Classical Archaeology at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Fitzwilliam College, said.
"It shows that this was a lively and busy place, even though most scholars have reckoned that it was marginal and stagnating. We have also carried out research in the surrounding countryside which adds to the picture because it shows that the nearby farmland was thriving as well."