Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma
Palazzo Altemps

Archivio di Documentazione Archeologica
Archaeological Data Archives

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Formation of the Archives

A.D.A is an indispensable source of knowledge for those intending to undertake archaeological research, especially, but not only, in ancient topography of Rome.

The Archaeological Data Archives (A.D.A.) in Palazzo Altemps, is currently divided into three main bodies:

  • Documents produced by the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma, dating from its foundation in 1870.
  • Scientific material preparatory to the Carta Archeologica di Roma, which collects all information on findings as far back at least as the end of the 16th century.
  • A rich core of copies of documents from public and private archives and from the most important collections favours in-depth study of the topography of ancient Rome.

In its current form the complete documentary heritage is the fruit of lengthy work of collection and ordering useful for institutional activities and for tutelage, conservation and valorisation of the archaeological patrimony and also for study and research in the history of ancient Rome.
The material is mainly related to on-site operations on the territory of Rome and within the Aurelian walls and in the Suburbio. The process of collection was originally determined by editorial work on the Carta Archeologica di Roma (Archaeological Map of Rome). This latter was to be a collection of data from various sources, including the fundamental source of the Archives of the ex Soprintendenza alle Antichità di Roma. This work progressed over the years, gathering together various sectors of the archives (tutelage papers, operations for finds, restoration of monuments, etc.) with the aim of completing as far as possible, a picture of the activities of the Soprintendenza. The archives are thus continually growing; not only because of the growth of documentation of institutional operations, but also because the archives purchases maps/papers relative to the activities of specialists who have played important roles in Administration or who have collaborated with the Soprintendenza. (E.g. Edoardo Gatti, Italo Gismondi, Guglielmo Gatti, Salvatore Aurigemma). The production of this document begins when Rome became Capital of Italy, with the foundation in 1870 of the Soprintendenza agli scavi e monumenti della Provincia di Roma, under the guide of Pietro Rosa who was designated the first Soprintendente.

photo of register
Register: journal of objects found
in excavations at Monte della Giustizia, 1877
(Archivio Storico di Palazzo Altemps)


The Registers and Journal of excavations are conserved among the documents. The Registers, called "Giornali degli oggetti rinvenuti", reflect the frenetic excavation carried out from this period onwards, when the city underwent significant urban transformation. On the archaeological front during this period, distinguished experts in Roman topography such as Giuseppe Gatti and Rodolfo Lanciani were at work. The latter leaves his signature as Supervisor on reports in the "Giornali di scavo", often compiled by custodians of the excavations, who were delegated to direct surveillance of open digs in the city.

Document with segnature of Rodolfo Lanciani
Documents with signature of Rodolfo Lanciani
(Archivio Storico di Palazzo Altemps)

Over the years, the territorial competencies and jurisdiction of the Soprintendenza have changed and at the beginning of the twentieth century extended beyond the city of Rome and its Suburbio and into the territory of Lazio the provinces of L’Aquila and Chieti and the territories of Perugia and Terni. It is for this reason that the Archives of the Soprintendenza conserve part of the documentation of the excavations in the above-mentioned areas, testimony of the historical jurisdiction of the Institute.

Since the founding of the “Rivista della Notizie degli Scavi di Antichità”, the Soprintendenza agli Scavi e Monumenti della Provincia di Roma, has been charged with collecting and collating all news of finds which the Soprintendenti of Italy regularly sends for publication. This activity too remains in the memory of the Archives where numerous reports of discoveries are conserved. The Giornali di scavo are a considerable documentary source for excavations up to 1935, and are collated in volumes and files ordered by year.

After the end of the second world war, documentation is much more articulated and complex and consists of papers for tutelage of the historic centre and suburbio, including the various aspects of operations and investigative operations: projects for recovery, excavations, restoration, valorisation of archaeological areas and ancient monuments, making inventories of materials.

In strict relation with these papers the Iconographic Collection was formed. This consists of graphical material that supplements the excavation documents and the documents of restoration of archaeological monuments. Besides numerous antique watercolours and pencil drawings, this collection also includes the most modern ink drawings. The Series of drawings and sketches of the Area of the Roman Forum and the Palatine is currently conserved in the seat of the Palatine.

The core of the documentation constituting the preparatory material for the Carta Archeologica di Roma has grown over time with copies of documents from other archives. This supplies original sources to support completion of the Map, and also to creates a service for a way to learn more of the documentary heritage related to ancient topography. To this aim, photographs and copies of documents, not only of archaeological interest but also complementary documents produced by the Soprintendenza, have been systematically filed in the other Archives since about 1980.

Thus, following the order of the institutions in the past, documents of the Direzione Generale Antichità e Belle Arti which, in the field of the Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione, was in direct hierarchical relationship to the Soprintendenza, have been filed and indexed. The archives also purchased documents and files of the Archivio della ex-Soprintendenza per i Beni Ambientali e Architettonici di Roma, which was historically the then Ufficio Tecnico speciale per le antichità e i monumenti di Roma eSuburbio, with its seat on the Palatine. This historical archives contain documents that complete and supplement those already in the Archives of the Soprintendenza.

Finally - from the Archivio Centrale dello Stato - a complete copy of the Archivio Gatti was purchased. This is an archive of the research activities of Gatti Giuseppe, Edoardo and Guglielmo, all of whom are distinguished names in Roman archaeology. The "files" and "notebooks" constitute an important memory of finds on the urban and suburban territory of Rome and are often enriched with additional notes, drawings and sketches which are conserved in the Archive of the Soprintendenza, where Giuseppe, Edoardo e Guglielmo Gatti left testimony of their work.

text: Luigia Attilia

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Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma © Archivio di documentazione archeologica 2004-07,last revision 2005-2-7, last update by editors
URL: archeoroma.beniculturali.it/ada