Sant’ Omobono: week three

MOLA team

Reporting on her third week at Sant’ Omobono, Rome, Alison Telfer and the team continue to find new ways to manage the watery conditions that come hand-in-hand with working so close to the River Tiber…

If I do a quick comparison between the known depth of the Archaic temple, as revealed in the 1980s, and the level reached so far in our trench, D10, it suggests that there is less than half a metre to go before we reach the temple! The much anticipated borehole results will be revealed at some point next week, which should give a better idea of what lies beneath.

At the end of last week, the metal sheets that shore the sides of the trench were pushed down, for a second time, to keep pace with our current excavation level (now 3.5m-4m below street level). Meanwhile, it has been all hands to the pump. The water is now gushing steadily into the trench and consequently it has been getting harder to retrieve some of the smaller finds as we dig. So, at the beginning of the week we set up a separate area for wet sieving. This essentially means hosing each bucketful of soil that comes out of the trench. It’s has proved itself to be a successful system, and almost straightaway someone found a tiny blue glass bead.

One of the best things about digging is the connection you, as the digger, feel with the past. You come to realise that you are essentially doing the same kinds of things people did in the past in order to tackle the same problems. When it comes to water, for example, people have always gone to great lengths in order to manage or control it. The dumps that we’re currently excavating are thought to have been put there in order to build up the ground as a kind of flood defence against the river.

The River Tiber is only 100 metres away today and is thought to have been much closer to the site of Sant’ Omobono two thousand five hundred years ago. When we reach earlier activity, associated either with the Archaic temple itself or hopefully pre-dating it, there may be evidence of other types of water control, such as wooden or masonry revetting (forming a wall), drainage channels or sumps.

In the 21st century, little has changed – we have dug a hole in the south-western corner of the trench in order to create a durable sump for one of the pumps to sit inside. However, it has taken the form of a large plastic dustbin with holes bored into its sides to allow water through but block silt; a sign of modern times.

We were sad to say goodbye to one of the members of team D10 on Thursday, Assunta.  Here is a picture of the team, unfortunately Marco and Ivan were busy elsewhere - from left to right: Andrea, Luca, me, Assunta and Ida. She will be greatly missed.

Why not have a look at Alison’s previous posts on the build up to, week 1 and  week 2 of excavation at Sant’ Omobono or check out the Sant’ Omobono project page on Facebook.

  • Research
  • Prehistoric
  • Excavation
  • From the experts

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