Roman art, archaeology, and museums
Digging through time
A conversation with Dr. Darius Arya & Dr. Beth Harris We know that when the archologists look for traces of ancient cultures, they dig down and we often read about how the ancient ground level was much lower. So how did this happen? What gets layered on top of ancient cultures? People back then are like us today. Every action that we take, everything that we do, everything that we purchase, we're gonna leave something behind, there's gonna be a trace. The Romans were ultimately very efficient so they said often times if there is destruction from a fire: "Let's level off those buildings, make the ground floor into the basement or simply level off the building and put all that rubble around, smooth it and we now have the foundations for the later structures." So, Romans didn't necesserily look at their cities after disasters: fires, floods, earthquakes, the way that we do. So after Katrina in United States, we digged it out. But for the Romans, that's too much effort. Why you're gonna haul that material away? Just level off and jack your city up to a higher level. So, standing here in the Forum, we notice we go down into the Forum and we look up at the streets around us. So, are we at an ancient ground level now? Yes, and even beneath this are several other layers of ancient Rome. So, we'd go down another 20 feet to get to the archaic layers and every monument that you see has a precedent. Like this is Basilica Julia. This was built after fire in 283 A.D. It replaces the one that's burnt down that was built by Julius Ceasar and completed by Augustus. It in turn replaced a second century B.C. Basilica It in turn replaced earlier republican houses. So you've got layer upon layer upon layer. So how do archeologists make the decision when to stop digging? Feels like you could dig and just go further back in history. So, when you're looking for opportunities to go down further such as someone's put a cut in the floor that allows you then to go down to an earlier level and what they end up mostly satisfying themselves with for the Forum Piazza today. What you see is largely on the Augustan to second century A.D. levels. But there are many opportunities throughtout the area in the Roman Forum where they can go down to earlier and earlier levels. So finding places to do that where you don't destroy what is existing now, that you could say? Exactly. Thanks. Thank you.