Archive for the ‘Roma, Caput Mundi’ Category

How’s this for a view from your office?

Friday, October 26th, 2018

Heading south in the historic center shortly before one encounters a rhino in front of a quadrifons arch, there’s a lovely palazzo off Piazza Campitelli on the Via Montanara. The first time I happened past it was when I went to the Museo della Mura at the Porta Appia. That was Sunday and the portellone (big ol’ door) was closed so it was just a felicitously located building. I barely noted it because it was clearly new (well, new for Rome).

When I returned down that path for the Wednesday excursion which took me past the rhino, the portellone was wide open and I saw a beautiful courtyard with a fountain and a few handsome pieces of ancient marble work. That was notable and how. I popped in to have a quick look around, as one does in open doors in Rome, and I saw this:

That is what the employees of the Municipal Department of Culture see every morning when they trudge in to the office. The door was open for randos like me to wander in because there’s a little information booth with a bunch of pamphlets about cultural activities sponsored by the city and oh yeah, a freaking incredible view of three important ancient sites and a cool Renaissance building.

The view from the courtyard stretches from the slopes of the Capitoline to the Velabrum valley. This was always a busy area, even before the Cloaca drained the marsh, because it’s where the Isola Tiberina divides the Tiber making a convenient ford for a commercial harbor. The remains of the first bridge built on the river, the Ponte Rotto, still stand in front of the island.

Once the marshes were dried up, the area filled with temples and monumental structures. The Theater of Marcellus was built in by August in 13 or 11 B.C. in memory of his beloved nephew who died at a young age under suspicious circumstances (did Livia poison him?). It was originally three levels high, the first level supported by Doric columns, the second Ionic and the third adorned by Corinthian pilasters. It seated 15,000.

A Temple of Apollo was first built on the site in 431 B.C. by consul Gnaeus Iulius Mento in thanks for the conclusion of a plague. It was the first and for centuries the only temple to Apollo in the city. The remains visible today date to a rebuild of the site during the Augustan period, a rebuild made necessary by various demolitions done to accommodate the Theater of Marcellus.

You will not be surprised to hear that the theater, like sooo many other ancient Roman buildings, was converted into a fortress by local potentates. In the Renaissance the fortress got an architectural upgrade into a palace, designed by Baldassarre Peruzzi for the noble Savelli family, later owned by the Orsini.

In the 1930s, the Fascist thirst for creating a grandiose vision of the ancient Caput Mundi led to the demolition of much of the medieval and Renaissance construction in the area. The columns from the Temple of Apollo, incorporated into a later building, were reconstructed in their original location and raised on April 21st, 1940, Rome’s birthday. Other remains were released from the bondage of the structures built on top of them.

So what you see from the courtyard is a remarkable cross-section of Roman history. The tower in the left middle ground is the Torre dei Pierleoni, a medieval defensive tower once linked to all the fortressification of the Theater of Marcellus. A block or so behind it, past the tree, is the facade of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, of Bocca della Verita’ fame. On the right is the Theater of Marcellus, only two of its original three ancient storeys remaining, with the Renaissance palazzo taking up the third storey now. The columns and hill they’re on are the site of the Temple of Apollo. The mass against the fence in the left foreground is the podium of the Temple of Bellona, originally erected in 296 B.C. to celebrate a victory over the Etruscans and also reconstructed under Augustus (5-15 B.C.). The building with the tile roof overlooking the Temple of Apollo is the Albergo della Catena, an active inn from at least the 16th century until 1931 when it was bought by the city of Rome.

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Random arch rhinos

Thursday, October 25th, 2018

In the Forum Boarium across from the Theater of Marcellus and a block or so from Santa Maria in Cosmedin where crazy people who have seen Roman Holiday one too many times line up for hours to get a picture of themselves putting their hands in an ancient manhole cover, lies one of those gems that is so large it’s weird to call it hidden. And yet it is, at least in the sense of being little known these days.

It is the only surviving quadrifrons arch in Rome. Quadrifons literally means “four fronts” and that’s how the arch was designed: four pylons supporting a cross vault, like the way you set up the central double wicket in croquet. That gives it the look of a cube with a gate on each side. It’s the four faces that earned it the appellation Arch of Janus, a deity sometimes depicted in Roman iconography in the form of Ianus Quadrifons, so with four faces instead of two. The arch wasn’t dedicated to him. The Latin word for door, “ianua,” is derived from the god and is the likely reference in the name.

There are no records of it going by the Arch of Janus in antiquity. Historians think it might be the “arcum divi Constantini” listed as one of the monuments in the Velabrum in the regionary Notitia urbis Romae in which case it would have been dedicated to Constantine or his one of his sons Constantine II, Constans or Constantius II.

The arch was built in the second half of the 4th century A.D. in the Velabrum, the valley connecting the Roman Forum with the Forum Boarium (the cattle market). Once a marsh fed by the Tiber, the area was drained by the construction of the Cloaca Maxima, and the arch straddles the large drain leading to the great sewer. It was constructed of concrete and faced with marble taken from earlier structures. The marble cladding of the pylons have two rows of three niches on each side. Empty now, they originally contained statues. Today the only figural decoration remaining is a different goddess on each keystone: Roma on the east pylon, Minerva on the north, and possibly Juno and Ceres on the remaining two (identification is uncertain).

In the Middle Ages the Frangipani family occupied it, filling in the gates and using it as a fortress. Those alterations were corrected in 1827-1830 and the arch became an arch again. There was just one wee little problem. The restorers mistakenly believed that an attic atop the arch was a Frangipani addition and tore the whole thing off. It was original, part of the ancient arch now lost forever.

Through the opening of the gates you can see the church of San Giorgio al Velabro right behind it. In 1993, a car bomb went off in front of the church, after which the arch was fenced in and visitors locked out. While other buildings in the Velabrum were restored in the 90s and early 2000s, the arch alone remained untouched, blackening under the constant assault of Roman traffic. It was included in the World Monuments Fund 2014 World Monuments Watch, and with funding from private sponsors, the WMF and the Superintendency for the Coliseum were able to start an in-depth study and restoration of the arch.

In May of 2017, visitors were invited to see the work in progress at a WMF-organized Watch Day. This video shows tantalizing but not satisfying snippets of the restoration.

A year and a half has passed since that Watch Day, and as of 9:00 AM October 24th, 2018, the Arch of Janus is still fenced in. A sign on the gate warns that visitors are not allowed due to the ongoing restoration work. There was no work visible. No workers. No scaffolding. There was, however, a rhino.

Rome, ladies and gentlemen.

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Random street marbles

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018

This morning was all about the city of Rome as an easily accessible museum with no tickets to buy. After the de rigeur breakfast caffe’ at Sant’Eustachio, which, just by the by, is a miracle wondercoffee touched by the gods, it was off to see a couple of little things plopped in the middle of random alleyways in the centro storico. First up: a lump of marble with what looks like a cut in it. According to legend, that cut was put there by the Roland, knight of Charlemagne and hero of France’s national epic, the chanson de geste The Song of Roland. This is why the tiny, otherwise unremarkable alleyway is called Vicolo della Spada d’Orlando (Alley of the Sword of Roland).

There are actually two legends attendant this lump, both star not just Roland, but his trusty sword, Durendal. Durendal was the sharpest sword in the world and unbreakable because it was filled with the power of four relics: one tooth of Saint Peter’s, some blood from Saint Basil, a piece of the Virgin Mary’s robe and a hair from Saint Denis. Charlemagne had received it directly from an angel and gave it to his loyal warlord Roland.

Roland was fighting a Muslim ambush at Roncesvalles in northern Spain, slaughtering thousands with his great skill in combat and his unbreakable, sharpest of sharp sword. Even so, the Franks were tremendously outnumbered and when he saw that he was about to be overrun, Roland tried to destroy Durendal to keep such a powerful weapon out of their hands. He struck a powerful blow against a solid marble column. The sword did not break. It just cut the column instead. Roland would die at Roncesvalles from blowing his horn Oliphant, calling to Charlemagne’s forces that they avenge him. He blew so hard his temples exploded and his brains popped out. Somehow, the piece of marble with the cut in it made its way to a Roman alley. That niggling detail is not recorded in this iteration of the legend.

The second version cuts the whole mysterious transport of a column chunk out of the picture and instead simply declares that Roland was in Rome this one time. He was attacked and in defending himself against said attackers, he slashed vigorously in all directions at his many enemies, inadvertently cutting through a nearby column.

Now, it is reasonable that a whole column might have been in that wee streetlet, because the remains of a wall have been found there that once belonged the Temple of Matidia, a temple built by Hadrian in 119 A.D. dedicated to his mother-in-law Salonia Matidia, niece of Trajan. Almost none of that temple remains, but there are a couple of columns embedded into a palazzo at the end of the alley in Piazza Capranica. That Roland happened to be walking by only to be beset upon by foes and stabbed his invincible sword in the stone may be less reasonable but it’s even more awesome.

Amusing anecdote typical of Rome: there were three workmen lounging around at the entrance to the alley. They were very busily engaged in smoking in conversation. I bid them good morning and stepped between them to sidle into the Vicolo. One of them told me there was no entry. I pointed out that I had already entered, really, and only wanted to catch a glimpse of the Roland thingy. He was all “Eh. Might as well go through since you’re there.” AGREED, KIND SIR!

After all that ado, here is the mark of the spada d’Orlando, one as I found it with a tiny (empty) bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin on top, one as I left it, garbage removed.

The second stop on the random alleyway tour was Via del Pie’ di Marmo, Way of the Marble Foot. I wrote about that marble foot more than seven years ago when it got a shiny new pedicure transforming it from the gunky blackened thing I remembered from childhood to a clean white. The news accounts at the time said it had a new fence around it, and so it does, a simple black iron square band. It’s not as bright white as it was seven years ago, but frankly I think the lived-in look suits it better. I’m happy it got some attention amidst the unstoppable avalanche of work that always needs doing in so ancient a city.

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The walls, awake this time

Monday, October 22nd, 2018

Where were we? Right. The Aurelian Walls south where the Appia Antica begins. Today it’s known as the Porta San Sebastiano after the Christian soldier martyred by Diocletian whose remains are interred in the basilica that bears his name a couple of miles down the Appia, but its original name when it was built by Aurelian around 275 A.D. was the Porta Appia, for obvious reasons, and the museum’s labels and maps refer to it by the Aurelian name.

Before you reach the huge gate with its two crenelated towers that make it look like a storybook medieval castle, there’s a much smaller, rather hard-worn Roman arch called the Arch of Drusus. It bears no relation to your friendly neighborhood blogger and probably no relation to any of the other Drusi who have graced (or disgraced) the family name either. It was used as part of an extension of the Aqua Marcia added by Caracalla in the early third century to feed the enormous thirst of his new baths. It pre-existed the construction of the spur, however. All that’s left of it now is a single arch — it used to be a triple — with some concrete and brick on top that likely dates to after the Caracalla-era construction.

You can see from the picture that the arch appears as you approach on the Via Sebastiano (closed to traffic on Sundays, btw, so pedestrians and bikes get to spread out nicely). Click to enlarge the image because the arch almost disappears against the towering backdrop of the gate. Here it is as seen from the window of the first gallery in the museum:

Arch of Drusus viewed through the window of the first gallery in the Museo delle Mura.

Incidentally, the black and white mosaic inlaid in the marble floor of that first gallery (see pic from yesterday) is not ancient. The marble floor isn’t either. They were installed in 1942-1943 when the Porta Appia was used as an office by the Secretary of the Fascist Party Ettore Muti. There are no labels claiming that modification, needless to say.

Actually, there are very few in the way of information panels in the whole museum. The first room did have a nice touchscreen with photos and explanations of the walls (all of them) and the gates from the early Servian ones to the Aurelian, the modifications of Honorius, and later demolitions/reconstructions by a slew of Popes. It was comprehensive and the text is available in Italian and English. I wish they sold a version in book or DVD form, but they don’t sell anything. No gift shop at all. That makes me a sad panda, especially since I really want a foldout version of this model:

A few more details about the awesome wall walk. There are more stairs than you might expect leading up to and down from the towers, and they have pretty hefty rises. None of the information placards mentioned the steps, so they could date to Aurelian, Honorius or later alterations, or be a mixture. I bring them up because they very clearly employ recycled building materials, a practice that was done from ancient times all through to 20th century when laws against cannibalizing cultural patrimony were passed.

Here is an arrow slit just because I think arrow slits are cool, and this one is deep in an ancient wall therefore extra cool. The bow windows in the Porta Appia were modified as late as 1848 when they were made more rectangular to accommodate modern artillery, as you can see in this image. A pigeon gave me a brutal side-eye through one of those and it would have made such an awesome picture but the little bugger flew off before I could capture him.

The third tower along the wall walk route is nifty for two reasons: it retains its original configuration from the modifications of Honorius (401-402 A.D.) and because a hermit is believed to have lived there in the Middle Ages. A fresco of the Virgin Mary and Child was painted on the exterior during that time. It was recently restored and still looks pretty bad, not unexpectedly so given its exposure to the elements for centuries and the budget nature of the original work.

I mentioned in my bleary post yesterday that the interiors of the two massive flanking towers were cool. They are suffused with light, unlike the towers in the wall, and the west tower has a fascinating series of graffiti preserved and embedded in its new(ish) plaster walls. I assume these came from the outside of the gate which still has a bunch of medieval inscriptions carved into its marble, but there were no panels explaining them.


There you have it. A reasonably full account of my visit to the Museo delle Mura. Obviously I recommend it highly, and since the Appia Antica starts at its feet, it’s an excellent way to start off an excursion to the catacombs and many, many other important burial sites along Rome’s most trafficked ancient roadway.

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Walking the walls at the Porta Appia

Sunday, October 21st, 2018

I have been awake for 18 hours, 15 of them spent walking. Jet lag and a determination to get some walls under my belt as soon as possible make a beautiful and terrible partnership. I’m going to keep this short, therefore, as I am barely capable of seeing the screen.

Three words: Museo delle Mura. It’s one of those marvelous gems hidden in plain sight inside the gigantic ancient, medieval and Renaissance gate/fortress of the Porta Appia. You walk up to the massive archway and just to the right is a door into a museum. Entrance fee: zero. Just buzz to be let in and up you go.

The contents are limited — a few plaster casts of brick crosses from surviving sections of the walls and gates, plastic models of the phases of construction, a topographical map illustrating the perimeter of the Servian Wall (ca. 4th century B.C.) and the far larger expansion of the city’s defenses built by Aurelian (271-275 A.D.).

The real treasure here is the museum itself. It’s really misnamed. It should be the Museo nelle Mura, the Museum in the Walls, instead of the Museum of the Walls. The modest displays are eclipsed by a truly fantastic wall walk that takes you through four of the surviving towers in the stretch of the Aurelian Wall, later given a second story by Honorius with more arrow slits and a roof.

Wee spiral staircase to the right flanking tower.The interior spaces, particularly in the two massive gate towers, are magnificent, but you will never get a view of Rome and environs like you do from the very top of the right tower. That’s if you dare to take the tiniest, tightest of spiral staircases to get up there, which of course I did because I am a most generous blogger.

Here’s the wall walk seen from above:

Here’s the Appia Antica heading south from the gate:

There’s much more, but that will have to tide you over for now as my moribund state demands sleep.

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Programming Note of Awesomeness

Friday, October 19th, 2018

Guess who speaks fluent French and is flying to Rome today? THIS MOI! Yes, I am heading back to the motherland for the second year in a row. My aim for this trip is to walk the ancient city. I mean, like, all of it. I have exactly two site visits booked, but otherwise the week will be dedicated to exploring the greatest open-air museum in the world without schedule or expectation. I will walk the pomerium, tracking every extant snippet of the ancient walls and gates I can find. I will criss-cross the center. I will go back and forth over the Tiber whenever the spirit moves me.

If all goes well, there will be some posts that refer back to earlier stories I’ve written. If not, then you’ll receive the full benefit of my dubious pictorial skills documenting my adventures in the Capital of the World. Rest assured, I will relay all your best wishes to the cats.

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Opulent imperial-era home found at Milvian Bridge

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of an opulent imperial-era residence on the banks of the Tiber near the Milvian Bridge. The site was found last November during a preventative archaeology survey in advance of utility works, but excavations were suspended and trenches filled in out of concern that the seasonal rise of the water level in the Tiber would damage the ancient remains.

Excavations have started again in the spring. Only a fraction of the structure has been unearthed and the team still sin’t certain whether it was a villa or smaller private dwelling. The part that has been exposed is contains mosaic floors in the luxurious opus sectile, a mosaic style which used polychrome marbles instead of the small, even tesserae tiles, arranged in a variety of floral, geometric and figural shapes. The floors in this building feature floral motifs, at least the ones revealed so far.

They are of exceptional quality, the colors of the marbles vivid and diverse. The homeowner must have spared no expense. It is incongruous, however, that such a high-end edifice decorated in precious materials would have been built so close to the bank of the Tiber.

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Intact 4th c. B.C. tomb found in Roman suburb

Monday, June 4th, 2018

An exceptional intact chamber tomb from the 4th century B.C. was discovered during construction of a water pipeline in a suburb of Rome. It was found when an earthmover opened a hole in the side of the chamber, thankfully doing no damage to its overall structure or contents. By law, an archaeologist must be present at construction projects in Rome and environs, but the area had been worked for a year with little archaeological material to show for it so on-site archaeologist Fabio Turchetta didn’t expect they’d stumble on anything of any import. He certainly didn’t expect to find a complete, untouched tomb from the early Roman Republic.

The chamber tomb was dug into soft volcanic tufa and sealed with a large slab of limestone. It contained the skeletal remains of four individuals, three men and one woman between the ages of 40 and 50. They were inhumed at different times. Two of the men were placed up high on stone ledges. The woman was on the floor of the tomb in a crouched position and the third man next to her. Archaeologists believe it was a family tomb, that the people buried there were related to each other instead of the tomb having been invaded and reused in a later period, a common practice that often resulted in the destruction or damage of earlier burials.

The deceased, the two men on the ledges in particular, were laid to rest with a spectacular array of funerary goods. Two iron strigils, scrapers used by athletes to clean themselves after a workout, inspired the team to name the chamber “The Tomb of the Athlete” even though the interred would have been well past athlete age in their era, and anyway strigils were used for cleaning by non-athletes as well.

A total of 25 artifacts were recovered from the tomb, mostly black-glazed pottery bowls and plates with their white decorations still vivid. The tomb was in such inviolate condition that the vessels still contained the remains of funerary offerings: bones of chickens, rabbit and a lamb or kid. The tomb and the number and quality of the grave goods and offerings indicate the deceased were wealthy people, part of the societal elite.

A coin found next to one of the skeletons dates the tomb to between 335 and 312 B.C. The bronze coin depicts the head of Minerva on the obverse and a horse head inscribed “Romano” on the reverse. The style of the pottery confirms the dating of the tomb to the second half of the 4th century B.C.

The Case Rosse neighborhood where the tomb was found is on the Via Tuburtina, a Republican-era road that goes from Rome east to Tivoli (ancient name, Tibur) and then Pescara on the Adriatic. It exits the ancient traditional boundary of the city through the Porta Esquilina in the Servian Wall, and the historic center of Rome through the Porta Tiburtina in the Aurelian Wall (built in the late 3rd century A.D.). Case Rosse is 10 miles outside of the ancient city of Rome.

The Via Tiburtina was decades away from being built when the men in the chamber tomb died, and the Servian Wall, built in reaction to the first Sack of Rome in 390 B.C. by Gallic forces under Brennus, was just a few decades old. It was a momentous century for the city in many ways. Rome bounced back quickly from the sack and in the second half of the 4th century defeated their Italian neighbors — the Etruscans, the Samnites, the Volsci, the Sabini, assorted other Latin tribes — and absorbing their lands and peoples into the foundation of what would become a vast empire.

The individuals buried in the tomb, therefore, were likely Latins, as the Roman identity was still attached to the city itself and only taking its first steps outside of the pomerium with the dissolution of the Latin League confederation after it was decisively defeated by Rome in 338 B.C. One of the reasons this tomb is so important a find is that its untouched condition and organic materials provides them with a unique opportunity to study the funerary rituals of the Ager, the countryside that had been absorbed by Rome politically but was still not Rome.

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.

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.

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Happy Birthday, Rome, from the Antonine Wall.

Saturday, April 21st, 2018

It’s April 21st, the traditional founding day of the city of Rome when, according to legend (one of them, anyway) Romulus ploughed a furrow laying out the boundaries of the city, sacrificed to the gods and became the first king of Rome by popular acclaim. Ancient sources vary on the date of this mythical event (in fact, archaeological evidence indicates Rome has been inhabited since Paleolithic times, ca. 14,000 years ago) but for the past couple of thousand years the most widely accepted date for the founding is 753 B.C., which makes the Eternal City 2,772 years old today.

It was a comparative baby of 895 years old when its legions built the Antonine Wall across the width of Scotland, a series of defensive ramparts, ditches and forts marking the furthest northwestern boundary of the empire. The soldiers left distance stones, slabs with reliefs and inscriptions documenting how much of the wall they’d built, features unique to the Antonine Wall.

A new study by University of Glasgow archaeologist Dr. Louisa Campbell has found that those distance slabs, now worn down to their natural sandstone, were originally painted in bright red and yellow. She used X-ray and laser technology to analyze the Second Legion’s distance stone, found at Summerston Farm in the 17th century.

Inscribed with a dedication to Antoninus Pius (“For the Emperor Caesar Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius, father of his country, the Second Augustan Legion completed [this work] over a distance of 3666.5 paces”), the stone depicts Roman cavalry with two captives on the left of the inscription, and an eagle on top of a capricorn (emblem of the Second Legion) on the right. It is currently on display at the University of Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum.

Dr. Campbell used portable X-Ray Flourescence and Raman Spectroscopic technology to analyze the traces of pigment remaining on several distance stones, including the Summerston stone. They identified a limited palette of vibrant red and yellow that was used as visually impactful propaganda that would have conveyed a clear message to indigenous peoples about the power and strength of the Roman empire.

There is a clear format to the application of pigments in the Roman Empire with specific colours expected to appear in certain contexts, eg reds in letters and Roman cloaks and military standards, different colours of red depicting spilled blood of indigenous captive warriors and ochres probably applied in layers to provide life-like skin tones, as evidenced on marble statuary.

There is even evidence for red on the beak of the Roman eagle which Dr Campbell suggests symbolises the eagle feasting on the flesh of her enemies.

A base layer of gesso was applied to the stones in the first instance which was then painted onto, but conservation practices appear to have negatively impacted the survival of these exquisite sculptures.

This is innovative work that has not previously been attempted. It presented some challenges which have now been mitigated and the next phase of the research seeks to determine whether other stone statuary, including Pictish symbol stones and other early medieval sculpture was adorned in colour.

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Spanish tech used in Switzerland to prove Roman shaft was a fridge

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

The archaeological site of Augusta Raurica outside Basel, Switzerland, has been excavated continuously for decades. It is the oldest known Roman colony on the Rhine but was never overbuilt after it was permanently disabled by earthquakes and barbarian raids in the 3rd century. Because of this, the site’s remains are extensive and in an excellent state of preservation. Today Augusta Raurica is by far the best preserved Roman city north of the Alps.

In 2013, a dig unearthed a number of stone-walled shafts. Archaeologists suspected they may have been used for cold storage. Romans would pack the space with snow and ice in the winter and add straw for insulation. Supplies stashed in the shaft could then be kept cool even when the sun was hot.

Peter-Andrew Schwarz from the University of Basel has experimented twice trying to get the refrigerator effect to work. The first time the team packed the shaft with snow, shoveling it all in in one fell swoop. This method did not work. The temperature inside the structure never even reached freezing during the winter.

The second attempt packed snow and ice into the shaft gradually, fitting ice blocks into gaps. This half-worked. The pit got cold and stayed cold until June.

Now, however, researchers plan to use methods developed by the so-called ‘nevaters’ or ice-makers on the Spanish island of Majorca. This will see Schwarz and his team placing 20–30-centimetre-thick layers of snow into the shaft. These individual layers will then be compacted down with a straw cover placed on top of each one.

“With this method, people in Majorca could keep food cool in summer before the arrival of electric fridges,” Schwarz told regional daily Basler Zeitung in 2017.

The experiment is taking place even as you read and the site is open to the public, as is its wont. Visitors will have the chance to see the pits while archaeologists work to figure out if they were used for refrigeration. The tests end on Friday.

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