Sant’ Omobono: final week!

MOLA team

Alison Telfer reports on the excitement of her final week at Sant’ Omobono, Rome…

Not only have we reached the end of week seven and a depth of nearly six metres in trench D10 but, sadly, the end of the field season for 2013 at Sant ‘Omobono. It has been a truly amazing experience.

The remains of the Archaic temple revealed in the trench are extraordinary. Three levels of masonry and a foundation step have survived (visible in the top of the trench in the image below), each stone block cut with precision from volcanic rock, an engineering feat that would be a challenge to reconstruct today.

A large bank of clay to the west of the temple is as interesting as the temple itself.  As we removed the backfill between the two, it became clear that something extraordinary was going on. The side of the clay that faces the temple wall is exceptionally straight; no person could have dug it by hand. It looked as if the clay had been built up against a vertical structure, such as wooden shuttering, which had then been removed or else had decayed over time; although we found nothing to suggest wood had been left in place. What it may represent is part of a substantial river wall or river-side platform. Whether it was built to protect the temple from flooding or to enable its construction is yet to be determined.

We started to excavate the clay bank and about halfway down came across an exciting group of pots, some of them complete. We believe these are sacred offerings, possibly placed intentionally during the construction of the bank. Investigating the soil below the bank was more of a challenge - excavation at this depth was a bit of a stretch for our ladder and shoring - so a hand auger was used to core through the base of the trench. This enabled us to reach the earliest archaeological layers and the river deposits. Collating all of the results from the excavation will take time but watch out for a forthcoming publication from the project directors!

Which just leaves a final word from me. The team on site has been fantastic, wet-sieving hard clay with ice cold water takes some stamina. I would like to thank everyone, and especially the directors, Nicola Terenato from the University of Michigan and Paolo Brocato from the University of Calabria, for inviting me to take part in this fantastic project. I will never again look at the Roman walls of London in quite the same way…

Why not have a look at previous blogs on week 1, week 2, week 3, week 4, week 5, week 6 or check out the Sant’ Omobono project page on Facebook.

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