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 Hadrian's Auditorium - the "biggest find in Rome in 90 years"

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nordmann
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PostSubject: Hadrian's Auditorium - the "biggest find in Rome in 90 years"   Sun Dec 30, 2012 12:49 pm

The above claim was made by Rosella Rea, one of the chief archaeologists involved in the rediscovey of The Athenaeum which was announced publicly just three days ago, and it is difficult to dispute it. The main reason for this difficulty however is the dearth of information regarding the find. As yet we know very little about the extent of preservation, exactly what type of archaeological investigation has already taken place, and most crucially, what plans - if any - are in place to continue this project.

The story as released to the press is straightforward, but raises some very uncomfortable and as yet unanswered questions in its rather terse content. While conducting preliminary excavation for a new Metro station slap bang in the middle of Rome's famous Piazza Venezia the remains of Hadrian's one-time cenre for the performing arts were discovered eighteen feet below the modern surface. Over the last few months the traffic island in the centre of this heavily motorised junction has been replaced by a hole twenty metres in diameter in which can be easily seen lower wall and marble floor segments, some belonging to the original sructure and some indicative of the site's use up to the modern era as dwelling space, a hospital and even a brewery over the millennia (which is why "rediscovered" is a better term than "discovered" in this case - Hadrian's building was a landmark right up to the 9th century when it collapsed in an earthquake and its nature and location known to centuries of later inhabitants for whom it represented their cellar space).

The discomfort arising from the recent press release is mainly related to what is now going to happen? We are told that the dig is now complete (though much of the Athenaeum remains uninvestigated), that it will be "opened to the public" (though its location and condition would suggest this is not a feasible option), and in the same breath that "an entrance to the new Metro can be dug along one of the unearthed corridors which gave the public access to the complex in Hadrian's time". These last two suggestions come from Ms Rea herself, there is no mention in the press release of what the city or railway authorities propose in this respect. Perhaps the most telling comment from the archaeologist is that there are no public funds to conduct such digs any more in Rome and that this one therefore has been funded completely by and for the railway company. One is left with the distinct impression that in terms of ownership and therefore in terms of what the future holds for this undeniably important find, the only people who actually know have been conspicuously silent.

This worries me.



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PostSubject: Re: Hadrian's Auditorium - the "biggest find in Rome in 90 years"   Sun Dec 30, 2012 1:17 pm

I was sure I'd read about this before so I had checked back and found these:
http://www.atrium-media.com/rogueclassicism/Posts/00007812.html
http://www.atrium-media.com/rogueclassicism/Posts/00007836.html
http://www.atrium-media.com/rogueclassicism/Posts/00007612.html

I'm almost certain I also read about the find of a Hadrianic building with a semi circular bank of marble benches, suggested to be for the audience at lectures, during the subway construction but I can't find that one. I'll look again.

It all highlights the question of what happens when there's a conflict between the preservation of remains and contemporary development requirements. Which should have precedence? Is preservation by record sufficient?

edit, yes, in 2009 the discovery of the building was first announced. My memory was a bit at fault; it was stepped benches facing each other across a rectangular room that suggested the function.
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PostSubject: Re: Hadrian's Auditorium - the "biggest find in Rome in 90 years"   Sun Dec 30, 2012 1:37 pm

It is the archaeologist's own suggested solution to this conflict which is what worries me in this case, ferval - it is the type of "solution" one would expect from a developer, not a preservationist. This alone suggests strongly that the "conflict" has been deemed already solved in the developer's favour and before the issue was formally announced let alone discussed in the public domain. In fact given the press release as it stands one can justifiably wonder if there even was a "conflict" in this case at all? When an archaeologist is paid by a developer and then speaks for their paymaster what realistic chance for either discussion or enactment is there with regard to the preservation of ancient remains, and when such important remains are disposed of in this manner what chance is there then for those with less prestige though of arguably equal importance in terms of our communal heritage?

If this is the case then it represents a horrific precedent in the context of Roman archaeology - even Mussolini's engineers were obliged to show sensitivity to the global importance of the city's heritage to a degree well in excess of what is being apparently displayed here.
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PostSubject: Re: Hadrian's Auditorium - the "biggest find in Rome in 90 years"   Sun Dec 30, 2012 2:12 pm

My main concern is the quality of the excavation process and recording then the timely publication of the results. If there must be a choice between these and in situ preservation, I'd go for good data every time. Rossella Rea appears to be Director (Superintendent) of the Coliseum and must speak for the city authorities - or is that not right - so although the developers funded the dig, it presumably has been carried out professionally.

To be fair to the railway company and the city council, this has been on hold for 5 years now and 2 stations have been abandoned because of the archaeology. Stopping further excavation because there are no funds is clearly the sensible option.

If it is possible to create an entrance to the metro down an ancient corridor, and assuming it's properly dug first, I rather like that idea.

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PostSubject: Re: Hadrian's Auditorium - the "biggest find in Rome in 90 years"   Sun Dec 30, 2012 2:54 pm

The dig was supervised by Dr Roberto Edigi, who has in fact supervised all the digs associated with the building of the Metro C project. Edigi, if anything, is even more conspicuous in his silence in this case, and in the past has come under considerable suspicion for his failure to submit data from this project (underway since 2007) for peer analysis. In particular he has been publicly criticised by Dr Lucrezia Ungaro and Dr Roberto Meneghini, both of whom head up the Office of the Museum of the Imperial Fora and who, by law, are ostensibly the first recipients of all archaeological data related to central Rome and in particular the district near the main forum. They (and the world) are still waiting for the data from the 2008-2011 excavation done for the Metro in the Piazza de la Madonna dei Loreto site, in which Edigi has published photographs taken in January and February 2011 of undeniably important epigrammatic evidence but has yet to hand over this data in any form.

Contrary to what the recent press release implies, the Metro have not abandoned this site or any other but have said that if they must be abandoned then building in the Piazza Venezia cannot be avoided. This is what might be termed aggressive posturing and Edigi is playing along with the Metro by failing to provide the data by which an objective decision can be reached by anyone in this case. Also contrary to the recently implied statement that the Metro C line cannot open a central station if the archaeology found so far must be preserved, there have in fact been seven other station locations identified where disturbance of archaeology would be minimal or non-existent. These however are in real estate not owned by the civic authorities and therefore dearer to procure.

This whole thing stinks - and a vague promise by an archaeologist involved in but not responsible for the project that the Auditorium will be accessible to the public in around three years time provides no comfort whatsoever. Public access may not even be a good thing in light of an assessment of the data gathered up to now. In the absence of that data for this site being made properly available, or indeed any of the sites Edigi has excavated, even this cannot as yet be decided, let alone form the basis of a promise by an associate.

There have been serious departures from academic and legal norms in this project which have raised alarm bells amongst antiquarians in Italy. It is time these bells were rung a little louder, now that the Metro has decided to circumvent global criticism by couching their international press release in the terms they did and using an archaeologist as their mouthpiece.
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PostSubject: Re: Hadrian's Auditorium - the "biggest find in Rome in 90 years"   Sun Dec 30, 2012 4:01 pm

Thanks for that, now I see why you and anyone else with an interest should be concerned. Why are they making such a fuss over what is basically old news? Are they looking for private funding? Are Discovery or National Geographic sniffing around?

I know they've not abandoned this station, I understood it was the one at Largo Argentina, and another which I've forgotten, that were shelved.
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PostSubject: Re: Hadrian's Auditorium - the "biggest find in Rome in 90 years"   Sun Dec 30, 2012 4:25 pm

None have been shelved. Not officially in any case. The proposed map as displayed in Rome's main station has yet to be amended.

It may be old news in terms of press releases but in terms of published data it isn't even news yet. The epigrammatic clues relating the Madonna dei Loreto site with Hadrian's dedicatory "parentibus suis" in the temple of the divine Trajan come via photographs taken by Edigi's assistant Gianni de Dominicis and published on Flickr! These and other finds both in this site and at the Piazza Venezia which have been "leaked" but never academically published for review suggest a complex of public buildings erected by Hadrian far more extensive and integrated than hitherto appreciated. Edigi's stubborn silence and failure to make this data available would have contravened Italian law up to a few years ago, a law which was amended right before the Metro C project was undertaken - one that was bound by its nature to reveal hitherto inaccessible, unique, important and by definition extremely rare archaeological data relating to the very centre of ancient Rome in the age of empire.

Another way of reading all this is not that any "fuss" is intended to be created at all. Quite the contrary. By witholding data (which now can be done in perpetuity according to the revised law, though this is being legally challenged by Ungaro and Meneghini) and by presenting a limited and damaged excavation of the Auditorium as an "important archeological find" to which the public are guaranteed access, the other less fantastic finds in terms of public perception can be discretely demoted to the status of material impediment only and the Metro get its line, and all of its stations, built at the cheapest rate using only sites owned by the civic authorities. And all with only a few dusty old academics raising a protest.
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PostSubject: Re: Hadrian's Auditorium - the "biggest find in Rome in 90 years"   Sun Dec 30, 2012 5:27 pm

Mmm, the dilema of places that have been populated for an extremely long time, when the demands of modern city life clashes head long with conservation of heritage. It may not be quite as bad as it seems, Athens successfully incorporated archaeological sites into metro stations. Actually the metro stations are one of my favourite places to be in Athens, it is like going to a museum almost everytime you move around the place.

Although it is difficult to judge what will happen in the current climate, like all Southern European countries Italy is broke and undergoing a period of transition. That is probably the biggest risk to historical sites at the moment.

Evangelismos Station


Syntagma Station


Syntagma Station


Monastiraki Station
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PostSubject: Re: Hadrian's Auditorium - the "biggest find in Rome in 90 years"   Mon Dec 31, 2012 3:57 pm

Athens is a good comparison. The Attiki Metro, unlike Metro C in Rome, disturbed classical archaeology in an area now central but relating to what was then peripheral development in the city, unlike in Rome where several of the proposed stations will be situated right at the heart of the ancient republic and imperial conurbation. Even at this, the legal restrictions placed in Athens on the developers to protect the city's heritage were immense when compared to what now pertains in Rome. While both the delay and extra costs imposed by each city's respective restrictions may appear similar it is worth remembering that these restrictions in Athens resulted not only in an imposed station design but also the complete re-routing of the line for several kilometres at one point. In Rome however this is not the case - there the developers have adopted, quite legally, an "all or nothing" stance with regard to investment in the project, will retain overall control over their stations' placement and design, and crucially retain the power to assess increased costs by their own independent reckoning and the right to compensation should (or more accurately "when") these are adjudged to have become excessive.

It is also worth remembering that even with all this increased power to impose restrictions in Athens the result was still that much of the archaeology now displayed at the stations is displaced and out of context. Controversy still rages about the standard of recording lost archaeology. And most crucial point of all - ownership of many of the artefacts uncovered lies in a grey legal area due to the Metro administrators' insistence that those which they are burdened with maintaining financially are therefore assets belonging to them.

If such serious questions remain after a project in which archaeology enjoyed hitherto unprecedented levels of legal protection, what does this augur with regard to Rome's similar project in a city where antiquarians would give their left arms to enjoy a tenth of the legal clout of their Athenian contemporaries?
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PostSubject: Re: Hadrian's Auditorium - the "biggest find in Rome in 90 years"   Mon Dec 31, 2012 4:55 pm

I've just remembered that construction has finally begun connecting the Athens metro to Piraeus. As there is also lots of archaeology in Piraeus it will be interesting to keep track of what is uncovered and their treatment of it in comparison to that being done in Rome. Or if there will still be the same restrictions on historical finds today, as there was 10 years ago.


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PostSubject: Re: Hadrian's Auditorium - the "biggest find in Rome in 90 years"   Tue Jan 01, 2013 7:45 am

Related to the topic, a tongue in cheek look at 6 major archaeological discoveries that were destroyed by stupidity

http://www.cracked.com/article_20149_6-mind-blowing-archeological-discoveries-destroyed-by-idiocy.html
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PostSubject: Re: Hadrian's Auditorium - the "biggest find in Rome in 90 years"   Sat Jan 26, 2013 8:13 pm

While cooking I switched on the TV and caught the end of this programme regarding funding of archaeology and conservation in Rome. It looks as if it might be interesting so I'll try to watch it later. It's in Gaelic but there are subtitles. - http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01q9tfb/Eorpa_Series_20_Episode_7/

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PostSubject: Re: Hadrian's Auditorium - the "biggest find in Rome in 90 years"   Sun Jan 27, 2013 6:53 am

Iplayer is only available in the UK ferval. Shame because the programme sounds interesting, hopefully someone will upload it onto youtube.
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PostSubject: Re: Hadrian's Auditorium - the "biggest find in Rome in 90 years"   Sun Jan 27, 2013 6:07 pm

Here's something else to concern those with a care for what's happening to Rome and the commercial exploitation of the remains. http://www.gazzettadelsud.it/news/english/31719/Consumer-rights-group-calls-for-patience-on-Colosseum-repair.html
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PostSubject: Re: Hadrian's Auditorium - the "biggest find in Rome in 90 years"   Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:36 am

Not the Rome Metro I'm afraid, but the Thessaloniki metro currently under construction is pulling up finds left right and centre. With work already 4 yrs behind schedule, mainly because of the sheer quantity of work for the archaeologists that the digging has uncovered.

As of last year, the construction had yielded over 2,500 sq meters of buildings and other finds numbering over 28,225. Some 5,000 vessels, over 5,000 glass finds, over 1,500 pieces of jewelry, more than 130 signs, more than 400 figurines and 8 gold olive wreathe crowns.

But the find that has archaeologists most excited is a marble Roman road, which includes etchings of children's board games on some paving stones, that overlays a Greek road some 500 years older. Surprisingly it was also found that the modern roads fairly accurately follow those of the ancient.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/25/ancient-greek-road-reveal_n_1625846.html#slide=1143823

http://www.ametro.gr/page/default.asp?id=134&la=2

Edit. No make that 9 gold wreaths, another has been found
http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/02/08/ancient-gold-crown-found-in-subway-dig/

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PostSubject: Re: Hadrian's Auditorium - the "biggest find in Rome in 90 years"   Mon Mar 11, 2013 12:08 am

Here's how they have coped with archaeology found during the construction of a new subway line in Sophia.
"“During the excavations conducted for the building of the station in Sofia, the Roman city Sardica was found. What comes as a surprise is the way this was confronted – particularly in comparison to what has happened in Thessaloniki. Not only did they change the plans of the station, so that the antiquities would be incorporated in situ, in the interior and the exterior areas of the station, and at all levels, but they have also elevated the modern road so that the archaeological site can ‘breath".
If you stick with the video, you'll come to the station exhibits. Tip - turn the sound off, it's dire.

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