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Title: A Staggering Excavation Has Rewritten the Fall of the Roman Empire
Source: [None]
URL Source: https://www.popularmechanics.com/sc ... utm_source=pocket-newtab-en-us
Published: Dec 21, 2023
Author: Horse
Post Date: 2023-12-21 20:25:44 by Horse
Keywords: None
Views: 50

A 13-year archeological excavation has shown that what was once believed a backwater town for the Roman Empire lasted far longer than originally believed. Interamna Lirenas was a thriving town well into the 3rd century AD. A geophysical survey has allowed researchers to build a highly detailed image of the town’s layout, with an impressive list of urban features.

Interamna Lirenas has turned out to be far more than a “backwater town” of the Roman Empire. According to a published study in Roman Urbanism in Italy, this central Italian town thrived well beyond previous belief, using its impressive urban features and forward-thinking design to stave off the effects of the empire’s collapse well into the 3rd century AD.

“We started with a site so unpromising that no one had ever tried to excavate it,” Alessandro Launaro, the study’s author and Interamna Lirenas Project lead at the University of Cambridge’s Classics Faculty, said in a statement. “That’s very rare in Italy.”

The team was astonished by what they found. From a roofed theater and market locations to warehouses and a river port, the discovery tossed aside assumptions previously held about the area and the decline of Roman Italy. It turns out that Interamna Lirenas survived for around 300 years longer than previously believed, and was a flourishing town to boot. Related Story

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“There was nothing on the surface, no visible evidence of buildings, just bits of broken pottery,” Launaro said. “But what we discovered wasn’t a backwater, far from it. We found a thriving town adapting to every challenge thrown at it for 900 years.”

The team of archaeologists used magnetic and ground-penetrating radar to survey roughly 60 acres of mostly open fields. They then launched a series of targeted excavations to unearth the history. “We’re not saying that this town was special, it’s far more exciting than that,” Launaro sadi. “We think many other average Roman towns in Italy were just as resilient. It’s just that archaeologists have only recently begun to apply the right techniques and approaches to see this.”

The team believes that the proof is in the pottery. By focusing on common ware pottery used for cooking—and not the imported pottery that often shows evidence of high-status living—the team could better map the location and dates of citizen movement in the region. This evidence showed that instead of the town’s size peaking in the late 2nd or early 1st centuries BC, as previously believed, the town staved off decline until the later part of the 3rd century AD.

“Based on the relative lack of imported pottery,” Launaro said, “archeologists have assumed that Interamna Lirenas was a declining backwater. We now know that wasn’t the case.” Instead of favoring imported pottery, the town—which was likely home to about 2,000 residents—was busy making their own way.

Thanks to a found inscription, researchers also believe that the town was likely visited by Julius Caesar in 46 BC, likely because Intermana Lirenas was part of a regional urban network and ideally situated between a river and major road.

“This town continually played its cards right,” Launaro said, “it was always forging relations with communities between Rome and southern Italy while thriving as a trading hub.” Of course, the River Liri may have helped in that department—the town may have served as a river port. Archeologists also found evidence of warehouse measuring 131 feet by 39 feet, which was likely used to hold goods for widespread trade. There was also a temple and bath complex—one of three in the town—near the port.

“River ports didn’t just need warehouses,” Launaro said. “People spent a lot of time working and resting in the vicinity, so they needed all kinds of amenities, just like the ones we found here.” Related Story

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Interamna Lirenas wasn’t just a port, though. Archaeologists also found a roofed theater, roughly 147 feet by 85 feet in size and large enough to seat 1,500 visitors. “The fact that this town went for a roofed theater, such a refined building, does not fit with a backwater in decline,” Launaro said. “This theater was a major status symbol. It displayed the town’s wealth, power, and ambition.”

The theater was in a state of growth, not decline. The team found evidence of a wealthy donor backing what was likely an improvement to the structure. And combined with other evidence, that shows that the theater was in full use throughout the life of the town.

Three bath complexes—with evidence of continued use and upkeep beyond Roman Italy’s decline—and housing that showed no signs of zoning or separation by social status further contributed to the town’s apparently thriving status. Throughout the 60 acres of their survey, the team identified 19 courtyard buildings that they believe could have been markets, guild houses, warehouses, or apartments. The archaeologists believe they found a sheep and cattle market, which would have been key to the region’s thriving wool trade.

As there was no layer of ash or evidence of a violent end to the town, Launaro believes that it was eventually abandoned as residents grew fearful of marauding armies. The end of Interamna Lirenas wasn’t as sudden or as soon as previously believed, which has now opened a new world of understanding. (1 image)

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