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Roman Tomb Unearthed; to Everyone’s Surprise, It’s Intact

The tomb was dated to between 335 and 312 B.C. on the basis of a coin found next to a skeleton. One side depicts the head of Minerva, the flip side a horse head with the lettering: “Romano.”

Excavated into a bank of porous tuff, the volcanic rock typical of the area, the family tomb was distinctive “because it remained intact, and was never violated,” said the archaeologist Stefano Musco, scientific director of the dig. The quality of the black-glazed pottery found next to the skeletons — a variety of bowls and plates, some bearing mini-skeletons of animals (two, a rabbit and a lamb or a goat, have been identified) — suggested that the owners of the tomb came from a privileged social class, Mr. Musco said.

On Friday, archaeologists began to remove the occupants and the artifacts, which will be sent to a laboratory for research, including DNA testing on the skeletons to determine the familial connection.

Roman Tomb Unearthed; to Everyone’s Surprise, It’s Intact
Roman Tomb Unearthed; to Everyone’s Surprise, It’s Intact

One expert, Alessandra Celant, a paleo-botanist at the University of Rome La Sapienza, carefully collected ancient pollen and plant samples from the tomb — “the tip of a pin is enough,” she said — that she will study to potentially reconstruct the flora and landscape of the area, as well as funerary rituals.

The tomb was mapped with a laser scanner, and once it has been emptied, it will be sealed.

“It’s exciting to participate in such an important discovery,” Luca Lanzalone, the president of city-controlled utility ACEA, said at the site. The discovery of the tomb briefly stopped construction, but the project continued on a different tract of the pipeline. “Important public works and the safeguard of our patrimony” can go hand in hand, he said.

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