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Faculty of Classics


A rare roofed theatre, markets, warehouses, a river port and other startling discoveries made by a Cambridge-led team of archaeologists challenge major assumptions about the decline of Roman Italy.


New findings from Interamna Lirenas, traditionally written off as a failed backwater in Central Italy, change our understanding of Roman history, its excavators believe.


Their thirteen-year study – published today in the edited volume Roman Urbanism in Italy – shows that the town in Southern Lazio continued to thrive well into the 3rd century AD, bucking what is normally considered Italy’s general state of decline in this period.


The team’s pottery analysis indicates that the town’s decline began around 300 years later than previously assumed, while a systematic geophysical survey has produced an astonishingly detailed image of the entire town’s layout, highlighting a wide range of impressive urban features.



“We started with a site so unpromising that no one had ever tried to excavate it – that’s very rare in Italy,” said Dr Alessandro Launaro, the study’s author and Interamna Lirenas Project lead at the University of Cambridge’s Classics Faculty.


“There was nothing on the surface, no visible evidence of buildings, just bits of broken pottery. But what we discovered wasn’t a backwater, far from it. We found a thriving town adapting to every challenge thrown at it for 900 years.”


“We’re not saying that this town was special, it’s far more exciting than that. We think many other average Roman towns in Italy were just as resilient. It’s just that archaeologists have only recently begun to apply the right techniques and approaches to see this.”


Because the site was mostly open fields, the archaeologists were able to conduct a magnetic and ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey of around sixty acres. They also launched a series of targeted excavations around the forum. 


To find out more about their finds read the full article


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