Roman Imperial Ramp opens to public for first time

A vast underground passageway that allowed Rome’s emperors to pass unseen from their hilltop palaces to the Forum was opened to the public for the first time on Wednesday, 21st October 2015.

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The 2,000-year-old “imperial ramp” descended from the top of the Palatine Hill, where successive emperors built lavish palaces, down to the temples, market places and courts of the Forum in the valley below, from where the Roman Empire was governed.

Lit by flickering torches and protected by imperial guards, the high-ceiling passageway was so vast that emperors could have comfortably passed through it on horseback.

Originally more than 300 yards long, it consisted of seven zigzag ramps, four of which remain today.

The rest are believed to have been destroyed in an earthquake in the ninth century AD.

The covered walkway, which is enclosed and would have been invisible to the soldiers, slaves and plebeians going about their business in the Forum, was first discovered in 1900.

The tunnel was partially excavated but then was then abandoned for another century, until archaeologists embarked on a major restoration project a few years ago.palatine-ramp-2_3478001b

It has now been completed, and tourists will be able to tread in the footsteps of the emperors from today.

“For centuries, this was the entrance to the imperial palaces on top of the Palatine Hill,” said Francesco Prosperetti, the cultural heritage official in charge of the project.

“When it was discovered, this was a little-known corner of the Forum.”

Once tourists climb to its highest point, emerging from the arched passageway into the daylight, they have a panoramic view of the ruined temples, marble columns and ancient streets of the Roman Forum.

The entrance to the imperial ramp was a huge gateway which has been reconstructed using pieces of the original marble architrave.

The gate led to a reception hall which was converted into a church in the Middle Ages.

The walls are still decorated with frescoes of “the 40 martyrs”, Roman soldiers from the XII Legion who converted to Christianity and were then made to stand in a lake, naked, on a bitterly cold night, until they froze to death.

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Halfway up the steep passageway archaeologists found the remains of a latrine, built from stone and marble, which would have been used by imperial guards.

“The ceilings are eleven metres (36ft) high, so it really is a big structure,” said Patrizia Fortini, an archaeologist.

“We don’t know whether carts would have travelled up and down it with supplies, but certainly horses would have been able to.”

Rooms that lead off the ramp – possibly used by detachments of guards – have been converted into a mini-museum of Roman artefacts found close to the passageway.

They include an exquisite statue of Hercules, his shoulders wrapped in the pelt of a lion, and a marble statue of a child sacrificing a rooster, which was found close to a nearby sacred spring.

The Palatine, a craggy hill that overlooks central Rome, was first settled 800 years before Christ.palatine-ramp-view_3478000b

Successive emperors built huge palaces on top of it until the entire area became one interconnected imperial complex.

The covered ramp was commissioned by the Emperor Domitian in the late first century AD at the height of his reign.

He constructed a vast new palace on the Palatine, which is the origin of the words “palazzo” and “palace”.

The sumptuousness of the complex did the emperor little good in the end – he became paranoid and reclusive and was assassinated by courtiers inside the palace in AD 96, at the age of 44.

Source.

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Colosseum to open gladiator tunnels to public

From Telegraph:

The dark stone tunnels in which gladiators prepared to do battle in the Colosseum are being opened to the public for the first time.

But archeologists are concerned about the impact that millions of tourists will have on the subterranean maze of tunnels and galleries as they seek to experience their very own Gladiator moment, re-enacting scenes from the Ridley Scott blockbuster starring Russell Crowe.

From next week, visitors will be able to venture into the bowels of the amphitheatre, the largest ever built by the Romans, exploring the cells and passageways in which wild animals such as lions, tigers, bears and hyenas were corralled.

They were forced into cages and raised with a system of winches and pulleys to just beneath the floor of the sand-covered arena, emerging from rope-operated trap doors to do battle with other animals or with gladiators.

The largest animals – elephants, rhinoceroses and hippopotamuses – were too big for the hoists and would have entered through a gate directly into the arena.

Tourists will be able to see the remains of a sophisticated sewerage system which provided the Colosseum’s enormous crowds with dozens of drinking fountains and lavatories and even enabled the arena to be flooded for mock naval battles involving hundreds of gladiators on ships.

Roman bricks still line the floors of the dungeons and tunnels and stone stairways connect the two underground levels.

An underground passageway, which still exists, linked the Colosseum with a nearby gladiator barracks, the “ludus magnus”, the remains of which are also still visible.

Gladiators – who were mostly common criminals, slaves and prisoners of war – would emerge into the arena to the applause of 50,000 spectators.

Those that were killed in combat were carried out of the amphitheatre through the Porta Libitina – the Gate of Death.

“You can imagine being a gladiator and listening to the roar of those 50,000 people coming through the floorboards – that is what is magnificent about being down here,” said Darius Arya, the director of archaeology of the American Institute for Roman Culture.

“The animals would have been prepared for slaughter, or slaughtering: there were bears, boars, lions, tigers, even crocodiles. People would have been working on hoisting 20ft tall stage sets into the arena – there was more backstage pressure than for a Broadway show. The smell and the heat would have been incredible, especially in summer, and it would all have been done by candlelight.”

Opening up the underground area is intended to relieve crowding at one of Italy’s most popular ancient monuments – an average of 20,000 people converge on the Colosseum each day. Until now, only about 35 per cent of the vast stone-built stadium has been accessible.

The newly opened areas will be open to guided tours of a maximum of 25 people at a time.

“It is the first time people will have the chance to go down into the places where games and shows were organised,” said Rossella Rea, the director of the Colosseum.

However, Dr Arya said: “It’s great that these new areas are open but I’m concerned because there’s going to be a lot more traffic and a lot more wear and tear.

“They need to make sure that it is not trampled on. The conservator in me asks what guarantees are there that the place will still be in good shape in five or 10 years’ time.”

Visitors will also be able to access, for the first time in about 40 years, the third highest of four tiers of seating, which in Roman times was reserved for poor citizens, freed slaves and foreigners.

The Colosseum was started by the emperor Vespasian in AD70 and completed 10 years later by his son, Titus, who held a 100 day inauguration festival in which 9,000 animals were killed.

From Telegraph.

What lies below the Temple of the Feathered Serpent in Teotihuacan?

From ArtDaily:

After eight months of excavation, archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have located, 12 meters below , the entrance to the tunnel leading to a series of galleries beneath the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, in the Archaeologcial Area of Teotihuacan, where the remains of rulers of the ancient city could have been deposited.

In a tour made by to site today with the media, archaeologist Sergio Chavez Gomez, director of the Tlalocan Project went below the ground and announced the advances in the systematic exploration undertaken by the INAH of the underground conduit, which was closed for about 1,800 years by the inhabitants of Teotihuacan themselves and where no one has gone in since then.

Teotihuacan – Temple of the Feathered Serpent (Photo:jschmeling)

INAH specialists hope to enter the tunnel in a couple of months and will be the first to enter after hundreds of years since it was closed. This excavation, which represents the most profound that has been done in the pre-Hispanic site, is part of the commemorations for the first 100 years of uninterrupted archaeological explorations (made in 1910) also called the City of Gods.

Gómez Chávez explained that the tunnel passes under the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, the most important building of the Citadel, “and the entry was located a few meters from the pyramid.

Access is by a vertical shaft of about five meters per side down to a depth of 14 meters from the surface, the entrance leads into a long corridor with an estimated length of 100 meters which ends in a series of underground chambers excavated in the rock.

The tunnel was discovered in late 2003 by Sergio Gomez and Julie Gazzola, but its exploration has required several years of planning and managing the financial resources necessary to carry out research at the highest scientific level. The team is composed of more than 30 people and has advisors renowned nationally and internationally.

Before starting the excavations, the archaeologists from INAH had the collaboration of Dr. Victor Manuel Velasco, from the Institute of Geophysics of the UNAM, through a the use of a GPR it was determined that the tunnel has a length of about 100 meters, and has large chambers inside.

Another of the technologies used in the exploration has been the laser scanner, a sophisticated device with high resolution, facilitated by the National Coordination of Historical Monuments (CNMH). INAH made the three-dimensional record of the archaeological finds.

Just a couple of weeks ago, archaeologists corroborated that the tunnel entrance was located in the place they had anticipated, then opened a small hollow hole at the top of the access, and using the scanner took the first images from inside the tunnel to a length of 37 meters, of the 100 it is estimated to have in length.

Teotihuacan (Photo: Antonio Peralta)

“Although we need to excavate two more meters to reach the floor of the tunnel, having the first images of the inside will allow us to better plan how to enter. Even so, we will have to withdraw a large amount of soil and a heavy block of stone that blocks the access.

“The whole process could take two more months of work, as we continue with the same systematic exploration that we have done from the start to avoid losing important information that lets us know what activities the citizens of Teotihuacan performed thousands of years ago and why they decided to close it, “said archaeologist Sergio Gomez.

So far, 200 tons of earth have been withdrawn, he said, while doing this we have found about 60,000 pieces of artifacts and pottery.

Angel Mora, who belongs to the Technology Support Unit of the CNMH, and engineer Juan Carlos Garcia, who operates the scanner, said that by introducing the laser, which has a range of 300 meters, through the small hollow opening the archaeologists made, there was only a length of 37 meters. Mora noted that this reading is because the laser beam “runs into something, maybe with some collapsed stones or because the tunnel has a gap.”

Sergio Gomez reported that it has not yet been precisely determined the time of construction of the tunnel, however it he has a better idea of when it was closed by the people from Teotihuacan. “Several indications suggest that access to the underground passage was closed between 200 and 250 AD, probably after depositing something inside. One of the hypotheses postulate that, within the large chamber detected by the GPR, we could locate the remains of important people in the city. “

The investigations have led to know with certainty that this tunnel was made prior to the construction of the Temple of the Feathered Serpent and the Citadel. The tunnel is contemporary with a large architectural structure, which could be a ball game court, according to theform of the ground, said the archaeologist.

Unfortunately, the INAH researcher said, when the tunnel was closed, large stones were thrown which blocked access, “and the court was also destroyed and razed by the people of Teotihuacan, only small remnants remain.

Quetzalcoatl as depicted in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis (Wikimedia Commons)

“Locating the entrance to the tunnel fulfills one of the most important objectives of the Project Tlalocan, to precisely confirm that the main entrance was located in the exact spot where the excavation is planned. We must continue the excavation of the vertical shaft until it reaches the floor level to thereby start scanning the tunnel towards the East. “

According to the hypothesis about the meaning and symbolism of the tunnel, archaeologist Sergio Gomez, said the tunnel had to be linked to concepts related to the underworld, hence it is possible that in this place were carried out initiation rituals and the divine investiture of Teotihuacan rulers, since the power was acquired in these sacred spaces.

Also, it is known that rulers were buried in the holiest places. “For a long time local and foreign archaeologists have attempted to locate the graves of the rulers of the ancient city, but the search has been fruitless.

“That’s why every day our expectations are increasing, as there are many chances that they are sitting inside a large tomb or offering. However, it is not something we are obsessed wih, the discovery and systematic exploration of the tunnel is something of great significance for archaeological research and a unique opportunity to approach the cosmogonic and religious thought of ancient Teotihuacan. “

From ArtDaily