This is a video about the Vatican necropolis.
Vatican unveils Roman necropolis
The necropolis has opened to the public three years after it was unearthed by workers who were breaking ground for a new garage to ease the Vatican’s dearth of parking space.
“We found the kind of things that have usually been lost in past excavations in Rome,” Giandomenico Spinola, director of the excavation and restoration works, said.
One of the novelties of the necropolis, located along what was once the ancient Via Triumphalis (Triumphal Way) that Roman warriors used when returning from conquests, is that it offers a mixture of burial sites of both rich and middle-class Romans.
“History is not just made up of generals and kings,” Paolo Liverani, another member of the Vatican team that led the restoration project near St Peter’s Basilica, said.
“This is not your usual necropolis in the centre of Rome. It’s the only one like it.
“To find something similar, you have to go all the way to Ostia,” he said, referring to the archaeological site at the ancient seaport west of the city.
The excavations have brought to light some 40 mausoleums and over 200 single tombs arranged on multiple levels, most well preserved and dating between the end of the 1st Century BC to the start of the 4th Century AD.
A landslide at the end of the 2nd Century covered the site and helped its preservation.
Rich Roman, Poor Roman
The more simple tombs include funerary altars with terracotta urns that held ashes of those cremated, lamps, and holes from where garlands were hung.
Alongside tombs of ordinary, middle-class Romans – one a “tabellarius” (letter carrier) and another a “hortator” (circus horse trainer) – rest finely sculpted sarcophagi of Romans with more money.
The floor of one of the up-scale mausoleums is decorated with a preserved black-and-white mosaic of a drunken Dionysus, the god of the vine, held up in a vineyard by a young satyr.
The mosaic was restored in the Vatican Museums restoration laboratory and placed back in its original location.
One of the intricately sculpted sarcophagi includes a figure of a person in prayer, indicating that he may have been a wealthy Roman who converted to Christianity before the emperor Constantine made the new religion legal in 313 AD.
“This is a work in progress,” Francesco Buranelli, director of the Vatican museums, said.
Indeed, some of the skeletons that have been unearthed – including that of a small boy holding an egg in his hand – are still half buried, making a visit to the site a slightly eerie but highly realistic experience.
Visitors to the necropolis, which is covered by a newly constructed building, can walk over it on steel catwalks which offer an excellent view of the ruins.
See also here.
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