Intact Roman funerary chamber found under house in Spain

Renovation work on a private home in the Andalusian town of Carmona, 20 miles east of Seville, has revealed an intact Roman funerary chamber dating to between the 1st century B.C. and the 1st century A.D. The family discovered a small archway when they knocked down a wall on their patio. The opening led to a columbarium, an underground chamber built to hold cinerary urns.

There are eight loculi (niches) in the wall, six of them containing urns. The urns are made of three different materials: two types of limestone and glass. The glass urns are encased inside protective lead containers.

Three of the urns have inscriptions on the surface, possibly the names of the deceased. The contents include ashes and bone fragments, but also personal accoutrements like unguentaria, small bottles used to hold oils, cosmetics and perfumes. Bowls, plates, glass and ceramic vessels that held funerary offerings were found in the loculi and on the floor.

The chamber itself is in exceptional condition. The vault and walls are painted with intersecting red lines.

Juan Manuel Romàn, an archaeologist employed by the council, emphasized “the outstanding importance of the discovery”.

“It’s been 35 years since a tomb was found in such a magnificent state of conservation,” he said adding that it didn’t appear to have suffered any deterioration over the centuries since it was sealed.

“There is barely two fingers worth of sedimentation,” he added.

The artifacts have been recovered and will be conserved for future display in the archaeological museum. The fate of the columbarium is undetermined at the moment.

José Avilés, 39, the owner of the house who is known by neighbours as Pepe told local media that he was astounded by the discovery. “We never imagined when we were building an extension to the house that we should find such a thing,” he said.

“It’s all happened very quickly but our intention is to keep the chamber open, preserve it and protect it and somehow incorporate into the house,” he said.

“But we’ll have to see what the archaeological teams say,” he added.

You can get a closer look at the chamber and entrance in this video.