Unearthing ancient Roman history beneath a Vatican parking lot

26 Jan

Today I was had the unique privilege of touring a yet-to-be opened necropolis within the walls of the Vatican, Via Triumphalis Necropolis.  The Canadian Club of Rome was given this special access due to Canadian Patrons of the Vatican Museum.

This amazing grouping of tombs dates back as far as the Augustan age (1st century AD) and spans until the age of Constantine (3rd century AD) and was discovered during the development of — a parking lot in the Vatican.

You don’t necessarily think you are in for a treat when the entrance looks like this:

But through this nondescript entry, and under a parking lot, you walk into one of the best preserved burial sites of ancient Rome.  It’s amazing to browse through these artifacts when they are displayed in their original settings.

We were able to see the how burial rituals evolved from 1st to 3rd century AD, moving from cremation (where ashes were stored in terracotta or glass urns) to burial…like these guys:

We learned that burial sites had built-in tubes so that relatives of the deceased could provide them with libations – liquid nourishment for the afterlife in the form of wine or mead. You can see them emerging from the ground. Amazing also to learn that once ancient Romans survived childhood they had a good chance of living into their 80s and 90s.  Seems like access to fresh water and sanitation goes a long way towards longevity.

Here are some shots of the day – it’s hard to convey how impressive this was.  But what impressed me more was a comment one of my fellow Canadians made while we walked through amazing mosaics, frescoes and marble inscriptions….”what will be left of our current culture 2000 years from now? Plastic?  Toxins? Styrofoam?” Good question.









2 Responses to “Unearthing ancient Roman history beneath a Vatican parking lot”

  1. BrowsingRome February 21, 2012 at 9:06 pm #

    Hi Carla, wow this was a neat visit and thanks for sharing. The beauty of living in Rome is that there are endless attractions to visit and all of them are unique in their own right.There is so much to learn and see in this Eternal City!

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