Workers In Rome Uncover Perfectly Intact Tomb Of The Athlete Dating Back To 4th Century BC


While municipality contractors at Tiberias – an Israeli city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee – recently unearthed a 2,000-year-old burial cave, construction work entailing the extension of the aqueduct on the outskirts of Rome has now uncovered an ancient tomb that, researchers believe, has remained untouched for several thousand years.

Dubbed as the ‘Tomb of the Athlete‘, the burial site is located in the Case Rosse region, west of the center of Rome. Dating back to the 4th century BC, the tomb was found somewhat accidentally, when builders excavating in the area spotted a chamber around two meters below the ground using a laser survey.

Further digging, in turn, revealed a perfectly-intact tomb housing the remains of four people – including three men and one woman – along with a range of burial accouterments like chicken, rabbit and even lamb. Calling it sheer luck, Rome-based archaeologist Francesco Prosperetti said the following about the finding –

Had the machine dug just four inches to the left, we would have never found the tomb.


According to Prosperetti, The Athlete’s Tomb has been so named because of the presence of two rather unusual funerary offerings: strigils. Historically, strigils refer to blunt metal hooks that were used by Romans to scrape off sweat and dirt while bathing. In ancient Greece and Rome, the instrument was commonly used by athletes to wipe off sweat, especially after sport.

Based on preliminary analysis of the skeletal remains found inside the 2,300-year-old tomb, the researchers have concluded that, of the three men, one was aged 50 at the time of his death, while another was in his 30s. Both of these men were laid out on counters in the burial site. The third man, aged somewhere between 35 and 45, was found lying on the ground, along with a woman whose age has not yet been determined.  

Apart from the bodies, the archaeologists have also discovered an array of incredibly ornate grave goods, including plates, jugs, black ceramic items with vegetal and geometric motifs, among other things. Alongside these, the ancient tomb contained remnants of dishes prepared from chicken, rabbit and what appears to be lamb or goat. These offerings, as per the researchers, were meant to sustain the deceased in the afterlife.


During their survey, the team also stumbled upon a bronze coin, with the head of Minerva –  the Roman goddess of wisdom and strategic warfare – engraved on one side. The other side of the coin bore the stamp of a horse’s head along with the word “ROMANO”. The inscriptions on the coin have, in turn, helped the researchers date the tomb somewhere between circa 335 BC and 312 BC, which was essentially part of the Republican period of Rome.

The Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma, the body tasked with preserving the rich heritage of Rome, has announced that the newly-found tomb and its contents will be studied thoroughly in the coming months. As per reports, a team of archaeologists has already started transferring the bodies from the tomb to a laboratory for DNA analysis, in order to determine whether they belonged to the same family.

Furthermore, a paleobotanist has collected samples of plant material and pollen found in the ancient tomb, as a way of shedding light on the original flora surrounding the area. According to the researchers, the burial site – which has already been surveyed with the help of lasers – will be sealed up once excavation works are complete.


Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that construction workers in Rome have uncovered treasures of the past. Last year, for instance, work on line C of the city’s metro in Piazza Celimontana turned up an aqueduct dating from 3rd century BC. Found at a depth of 18 m (59 ft), the remnants of this ancient Roman feat of engineering were located when workers were excavating a 105-ft wide ventilation shaft that would serve an 8,600-sq ft area for line C.

And interestingly enough, according to the archaeologists involved in the project (that actually started in late 2016, though the announcement was made on April 3, 2017), they were only able to get down to this significant depth because of the “concrete bulkheads built for work on the metro”.



Source: The Local Italy

Image Credits: The Archaeology News Network