Police have uncovered a 2nd century Roman mausoleum beneath 60 tons of trash at an illegal toxic waste dump outside of Naples.
The dump is on the grounds of a 17th-century tower in the coastal town of Pozzuoli, just west of Naples, a town which was called Puteoli in Roman times from the Latin word “putere” meaning “to stink.” Back then the name came from its location right in the middle of the Phlegraean Fields, a caldera that includes the dormant Solfatara crater that regularly emits jets of sulphurous fumes, although it applies even more today given the enormous problem of illegal garbage piles plaguing the area.
When police raided the dump, they employed earth-movers to clear and impound the trash. They found an area where parts of the 17th century tower appeared to have been intentionally ruined so the rubble could disguise the trash. After clearing away a large pile of truck tires, they discovered the entrance to the tomb.
When they saw a marble-lined tunnel behind the opening, they realized they had found something ancient and alerted archaeologists excavating a nearby Greek site to the find. Inside the police and archaeologists found a large stuccoed tomb with marble beams in surprisingly good condition despite being filled with trash from the garbage dump, including car batteries.
The tomb had already been raided, possibly even recently by the people running the dump so they could sell whatever contents they found then use the empty mausoleum to stuff more trash into. The looters broke into the side of the tomb creating two exits then covered them with tires.
“Once again we see an illegal and uncivil act of huge proportions from the point of view of the environment and our cultural history,” said Michele Buonomo, president of the Legambiente environmental pressure group. “The operation is testimony to the neglect and abandonment of our patrimony.”
The owner of the property and another person who leased the land have been charged with violating environmental and historical preservation laws. Nobody reported the dump or the presence of hazardous waste, including local officials, so police intend to investigate who intentionally looked the other way in dereliction of their duty.
Sadly, this isn’t the first time this same site has been used as a trash dump. Organized crime figures were charged years ago for illegally dumping trash there, but obviously it didn’t take. Naples is drowning in garbage, and the Camorra, the regional mafia, are behind many of the illegal dumps that have arisen all over an area rich in Greek and Roman heritage.