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Science&TechnologyArcheologyThe villa where Emperor Augustus died excavated

The villa where Emperor Augustus died excavated

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Researchers from the University of Tokyo have discovered a nearly 2,000-year-old building among ancient Roman ruins buried in volcanic ash in southern Italy. Scholars believe it may have been a villa owned by the first Roman emperor Augustus (63 BC – AD 14).

The team led by Mariko Muramatsu, a professor of Italian studies, began excavating the ruins of Somma Vesuviana on the northern side of Mount Vesuvius in the Campania region in 2002, Arkeonews writes.

According to ancient accounts, Augustus died in his villa northeast of Mount Vesuvius, and a memorial was subsequently built there to commemorate his achievements. But the exact location of this villa remained a mystery. Researchers from the University of Tokyo have discovered part of a structure that was used as a warehouse. Dozens of amphorae were lined up against one of the walls in the building. In addition, the ruins of a furnace used for heating were discovered. Part of the wall has collapsed, scattering ancient tiles across the floor.

Carbon dating of the kiln has established that most of the samples are from around the first century. According to the researchers, the furnace was no longer used after that. There is a possibility that the building was the emperor’s villa as it had its own bathroom, researchers say. The volcanic pumice covering the ruins was found to have originated from a pyroclastic flow of lava, rock and hot gases from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, according to a chemical composition analysis performed by the team. Pompeii on the southern slope of the mountain was completely destroyed by the same eruption.

“We have finally reached this stage after 20 years,” said Masanori Aoyagi, professor emeritus of Western classical archeology at the University of Tokyo, who was the first leader of the research team that began excavating the site in 2002. “This is a major development that will help us determine the damage caused to the north side of Vesuvius and get a better overall picture of the 79 CE eruption.

Illustrative Photo: Panorama di Somma Vesuviana

Note: Somma Vesuviana near the ruins of Herculaneum is a town and comune in the Metropolitan City of Naples, Campania, southern Italy. Inserted in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site together with the ruins of Pompeii and Oplonti since 1997, this area was discovered by chance in 1709. From that moment on, excavations began and brought to light a significant part of the ancient Herculaneum, a city buried by the eruption of 79 AD. The lahars and the pyroclastic flows of material, which, with their high temperature, have carbonized all the organic materials like wood, fabrics, food, have actually allowed to reconstruct the life of that time. Among others, the Villa dei Pisoni is very famous. Better known as Villa dei Papiri, it was brought to light with the modern excavation of the 90s, during which papyri that preserve the texts of Greek philologists in Herculaneum were found. Official website: http://ercolano.beniculturali.it/

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