Operations in the Pilot Worksite

The operations required to test the Rehabilitation project for the Domus Aurea continue in the Pilot Worksite area.

The first operational phase is underway, with archaeological excavations aimed at uncovering the ancient structures to allow us to carry out any necessary repair work before the installation of the Integrated Protection System.

Overall plan of the Domus Aurea, in yellow the pilot worksite area – SSBAR Archive

Overall plan of the Domus Aurea, in yellow the pilot worksite area – SSBAR Archive

After completing consolidation and repair work on the compromised portion of the vault of gallery 20E, excavations began throughout the worksite, covering an area of about 700 m2. Archaeological research showed a variety of situations developing over a broad timespan and thus allowing us to track the main transformations in this part of the Oppian hill park.

Specifically, in the northern half of the worksite we were able for the first time to document the systematic and large-scale use of the area for vineyards in the 18th century, confirming the information already known from the sources, especially the cartography. The vineyards had a north-east to south-west orientation, exactly as shown on an anonymous plan of 1775.

Anonymous plan of 1775 – SSBAR Archive

Anonymous plan of 1775 – SSBAR Archive


Detail of the traces of vineyards – SSBAR Archive

Detail of the traces of vineyards – SSBAR Archive

An uncultivated landscape, probably dating to the early medieval period, currently characterizes the southern half of the area: here eight burials have been brought to light, similar to other features of the same type, already found sporadically in some test pits previously opened at the park level. These are graves partly cut into the concrete of the Trajanic vaults.

Archaeological research has also uncovered structures belonging to the Trajanic complex and the earlier arrangement of the upper storey of the Domus Aurea. We uncovered the outer surfaces of Trajanic galleries 20E and 20F, built to subdivide and close the courtyard (no. 20) in the west wing of the Domus Aurea; here, too, concrete with a carefully smoothed surface forms the floor of the terrace of the Baths.

Dating to the Neronian period are the remains of a floor in opus spicatum located immediately to the south of the southern wall forming the parapet overlooking the large porticoed courtyard. This brickwork, already identified in previous test pits along the whole perimeter of the peristyle, was removed at an uncertain period, perhaps to recover building materials. Its presence is documented represented by the imprints of the bricks (bipedales) on the base layer, still visible today.

Detail of the opus spicatum floor and imprints of the bipedales – SSBAR Archive

Detail of the opus spicatum floor and imprints of the bipedales – SSBAR Archive

We were then able to verify that the considerable seepages of rainwater that have always represented one of the main threats to the conservation of the decorated surfaces in the Domus Aurea, at least in this case and especially towards the south where Trajanic Gallery 20E runs along the edge of the Room of the Owls (no. 29), should probably be ascribed to the existence of large gaps at the intersection between the Neronian and Trajanic structures, probably resulting from demolition work to remove the wall on the southern edge of the Neronian courtyard.

Gap at the intersection between the Neronian and Trajanic structures – SSBAR Archive

Gap at the intersection between the Neronian and Trajanic structures – SSBAR Archive

The excavations and scientific research, including botanical analyses for the vineyards and anthropological studies for the burial ground, will probably be complete by the end of June.

Immediately afterwards we will carry out the work to rehabilitate the structures above ground. This phase will be followed by the installation of the “technological package” forming part of the integrated system for the creation of a new “sustainable park” that will ensure the conservation of the Neronian Palace and highlight the archaeologically verified links between the area’s two main architectural features: Nero’s Domus Aurea and Trajan’s Baths.

The excavations are being carried out by the company Remi s.r.l with archaeological assistance from Cooperativa Archeologia.

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L'autrice

Ida Sciortino

Ida Sciortino

Archaeologist at MiBAC (the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities) since 1980, member of the Domus Aurea staff since 1992 and coordinator of the blog. Scientific director of the Underground Basilica at Porta Maggiore, she is also responsible for safeguard in part of the territory of Rome’s 1st District (I Municipio), adjacent to the north-western area of the Roman Forum where she has been responsible for all archaeological research since 1982. She is currently in charge of conservation work in the Vicus Jugarius and the Basilica Julia with a view to their reopening to the public.

4 thoughts on “Operations in the Pilot Worksite

  1. Complimenti per l’ottimo lavoro svolto! Per curiosità, quando pensate si potrà procedere al rifacimento dei giardini di colle Oppio?

  2. Se avremo i fondi necessari noi prevediamo la possibilità di completare l’intervento in 4 anni.

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