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Stretch of the ancient Via Tiburtina resurfaces at Guidonia, near Rome


During the archaeological investigations preliminary to the realization of the project of "Enlargement of the four-lane Via Tiburtina from Albuccione to the Agro-food Centre Rome", in the Municipality of Guidonia Montecelio, which started in January and recently resumed after the Coronavirus emergency, important archaeological finds have come to light on the north side of the road, whose existence had not been known, as they were buried under a considerable amount of earth.

Stretch of the ancient Via Tiburtina resurfaces at Guidonia, near Rome
Excavation of the Via Tiburtina antica [Credit: Soprintendenza Archeologia,
Belle Arti e Paesaggio]



At first an interesting late-antique structure emerged, probably connected with the early Christian basilica of S. Sinforosa, which is located almost immediately opposite, on the south side of the road. A sort of narrow corridor or ambulacrum has been identified with the floor consisting of four rows of rectangular blocks of travertine between two walls, which continues beyond the building site boundary, while on the opposite side it was interrupted by the construction of the main road.

It is flanked by a rectangular room, with two sides made of travertine blocks, inside of which were two column blocks, also made of travertine, found out of place. Due to a dramatic event (earthquake?) both side walls of the corridor collapsed in the same direction, burying a large deposit of pottery and tablewares, mainly from the Middle and Late Imperial Ages.

Stretch of the ancient Via Tiburtina resurfaces at Guidonia, near Rome
The late antique structure [Credit: Soprintendenza Archeologia,
Belle Arti e Paesaggio]
Stretch of the ancient Via Tiburtina resurfaces at Guidonia, near Rome
The late antique structure: Detail [Credit: Soprintendenza Archeologia,
Belle Arti e Paesaggio]



Both the blocks and the disparate building materials of the walls ( travertine walls, tessellated sections, fragments of brickwork, amphorae and oil) come from older buildings (approx. 1st century BC - 2nd century AD) located nearby, reused, together with slabs of the basalt pavement of the Via Tiburtina, in the new structure dating to a later period (4th-5th century AD), contemporary to the construction of the basilica of S. Sinforosa.

The most important discovery, however, concerns the Via Tiburtina itself, which in this section was indicated in the topographical studies of the early twentieth century only hypothetically and had never been found, despiteo what had recently been discovered both towards Rome (Setteville di Guidonia) and towards Tivoli (Tavernucole-Albuccione).

Stretch of the ancient Via Tiburtina resurfaces at Guidonia, near Rome
The Via Tiburtina: detail [Credit: Soprintendenza Archeologia,
Belle Arti e Paesaggio]
Stretch of the ancient Via Tiburtina resurfaces at Guidonia, near Rome
The Via Tiburtina: detail [Credit: Soprintendenza Archeologia,
Belle Arti e Paesaggio]
Stretch of the ancient Via Tiburtina resurfaces at Guidonia, near Rome
The Via Tiburtina [Credit: Soprintendenza Archeologia,
Belle Arti e Paesaggio]



The paved surface was discovered in a good state of preservation about 100 metres east of the above mentioned structure. It slopes slightly into a hollow that had to be crossed by a small bridge or an underlying drainage channel: the pavimentum, 4 m wide, resting on a layer of gravel, is made up of well-connected volcanic stone slabs, with evident signs of the wagon wheels, but without excessive traces of wear.

The excavation, 15 m long at the moment, is revealing reticulated masonry on the north side (1st-2nd century AD), fronted by a sidewalk, attributable to a sepulchral boundary or a taberna. Other excavation tests have revealed that the road continues with a slight curve first uphill and then downhill to the late-antique structure. Only in a few places is the basalt flawed and without cracks, probably due to the phenomenon of reuse mentioned above.

Stretch of the ancient Via Tiburtina resurfaces at Guidonia, near Rome
S. Symphorosa: Plan (1878) [Credit: Soprintendenza Archeologia,
Belle Arti e Paesaggio]
Stretch of the ancient Via Tiburtina resurfaces at Guidonia, near Rome
Apse of the basilica of S. Symphorosa [Credit: Soprintendenza Archeologia,
Belle Arti e Paesaggio]



The discovery, in addition to returning a considerable well-preserved section of the public road that connected the city to Tibur, will allow us to establish the relationship between the ancient road and the early Christian basilica. The discovery, in addition to returning a considerable well-preserved section of the public road that connected the city to Tibur, will allow us to establish the relationship between the ancient road and the early Christian basilica. This was built in the 5th century, next to a pre-existing basilica (3rd-4th centuries AD) built on the tomb of the martyr Symphorosa who, according to the ancient Passio, was killed with her seven sons at Tibur toward the end of the reign of the Emperor Hadrian.

Stretch of the ancient Via Tiburtina resurfaces at Guidonia, near Rome
Map showing the area of the discovery (from Tibur 1983) [Credit: Soprintendenza Archeologia,
Belle Arti e Paesaggio]
The place of worship, situated at the 9th mile of the Via Tiburtina, was the destination of intense pilgrimages until the remains of the martyrs were transferred to the Roman church of S. Angelo in Pescheria in the 8th century. From a source of 1585 we learn that the basilica was equipped with courtyards and gardens, where pilgrims were welcomed, and that the road ran, at that time, along the south side. The continuation of the investigation will establish whether in ancient times the Tiburtina ran north, as it does today.

The excavation was followed and documented by Valentina Cipollari.

Source: Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio [trsl. TANN, May 28, 2020]

TANN

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