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Ancient road preserved under popular fast food restaurant in Rome

On Tuesday, a new McDonald's restaurant opened in Italy with one added extra that wasn't on the menu: an ancient Roman road, complete with three skeletons.

Ancient road preserved under popular fast food restaurant in Rome
Roman road with cast of skeleton in original grave location 
[Credit: Cinque Quotidiano]
The existence of the road, which had lain buried for centuries, was first revealed when work began on the restaurant in 2014.

McDonald's Italia funded the €300,000 restoration project and the result is thought to be the world's first 'restaurant-museum', where visitors can see the ancient street while muching on their burgers, thanks to a transparent floor.

The 45-metre road in Frattochie, south of the Italian capital, dates back to between the second and first century BC and is thought to have fallen out of use about three centuries later. It branches off the more famous Appian Way, which links Rome with the south of the country.

Ruts from wagon wheels are visible in the paving stones, which are made of local volcanic rock.

Ancient road preserved under popular fast food restaurant in Rome
Section of Roman road with cast of skeleton in original location 
[Credit: Cinque Quotidiano]
Though McDonald's financed the restoration, the project was managed by Rome's Superintendency for Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape.

Archaeologists unearthed the skeletons of three adult males, thought to have been buried after the road had already fallen out of use.

Casts of these skeletons have been returned to the original graves while experts carry out further analysis on the original bones.

Local mayor Carlo Colizza said the McDonald's project was "a positive example" of private and public sector helping each other.

Ancient road preserved under popular fast food restaurant in Rome
Visitors walk over ancient wheel ruts in the paving stones 
[Credit: Cinque Quotidiano]
"We were able to perfectly combine business activities with respect for and appreciation of the history and archeology," added Colizza.

In fact, construction projects in Italy are often delayed by the discovery of ancient ruins which then have to be properly excavated.

This has been one of the major factors in the repeated delays to Rome's third Metro line; workers have unearthed plenty of Roman treasures including a Roman barracks so impressive that the city is considering turning it into a museum.

Panels in English and Italian will give information about the history of the road and there will be a special children's route for younger visitors to explore after  their Happy Meal (or Appia Meal...). The site is also accessible, for free, without going to the McDonald's branch.

Ancient road preserved under popular fast food restaurant in Rome
Looking into the ruins from inside the Marino McDonald's 
[Credit: Cinque Quotidiano]
The CEO of McDonalds Italy said that the juxtaposition of antiquity and modernity in the McDonalds restaurant-museum was "virtuous".

"It is a place where you can look at the future, through the past," he said.

However, McDonalds is more often seen as a threat to Italy's cultural heritage than a possible help.

Source: The Local [February 23, 2017]

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