In Pantheon, Rome, a sinkhole recently unveiled a hidden world of ancient Roman history. This captivating incident occurred just steps away from the iconic Pantheon. With dimensions of approximately 10 square feet in width and over 8 feet in depth, this sinkhole event was nothing short of spectacular. As we delve into this remarkable discovery, we’ll explore the fascinating details of the exposed underground Roman world.
Unveiling the Past
As the ground gave way in front of the Pantheon in Rome last month, it exposed a breathtaking sight – ancient Roman paving slabs. Around 40 of these travertine marble cobblestones, known as sanpietrini, crumbled, revealing their historical significance. These slabs, estimated to be over 2,000 years old, are believed to have been designed by the renowned architect and statesman, Marcus Agrippa. Historical experts suggest that these stones were created during the construction of the Pantheon, dating back to 27 B.C. to 25 B.C.
A Surprise Appearance
This isn’t the first time these “imperial” slabs have made an unexpected appearance. During the installation of service lines in the Piazza della Rotonda in the 1990s, their presence was noted. However, the recent sinkhole occurrence caught everyone by surprise. It was an unplanned revelation of Rome’s rich history.
Sinkholes in the Eternal City
Sinkholes, known as “voragine” or “voragini” in Italian, are a recurrent challenge for the residents of Rome. In January, an apartment building near another iconic site, the Colosseum, had to be evacuated as a precautionary measure for structural checks. Notably, in February 2018, a 10-meter deep sinkhole rocked the Balduina district, leading to the unfortunate plunge of seven cars into the abyss.
The Causes of Sinkholes
The surge in sinkhole occurrences in Rome is attributed to a combination of ancient history and environmental factors. Throughout most of the past century, Rome averaged around 30 sinkholes or collapses annually. However, since 2008, this number has consistently tripled, posing a significant concern.
Solid substances like travertine play a significant role in the formation of sinkholes. Additionally, sedimentary rocks like limestone, commonly found in “karst” landscapes, are prime locations for these natural depressions. Sinkholes develop due to factors such as erosion beneath the surface layer, often caused by persistent water flow, which eventually leads to the collapse of the surface. Sinkholes can form naturally when ancient caves or tunnel networks are exposed or artificially during modern underground construction.
The Blame Game
When a sinkhole incident occurs in Rome, there’s often a blame game involving various factors. Whether it’s related to demolition work in a district or a day’s worth of rainfall, identifying the cause is of paramount importance. Authorities take each case seriously as they seek to understand the contributing factors.
A City’s Buried Past
Rome’s extensive underground tunnels, sewers, and ancient quarries, spread out over hundreds of kilometers beneath the city, have been identified as a primary cause of these collapses. Many of these cavities remain unmapped or unknown, making the eastern part of Rome particularly vulnerable due to ancient quarrying activities in the area.
In conclusion, Rome’s enchanting historical sites are accompanied by the challenges posed by sinkholes. As we continue to explore the city’s rich past, it’s imperative to address the impact of these geological phenomena on the modern city.