Ancient Mysteries

Sinkhole Reveals 2,000-Year-Old Paving Stones Near The Roman Pantheon

Sinkhole Reveals 2,000-Year-Old Paving Stones Near The Roman Pantheon

Sinkhole reveals ancient Roman paving stones.

Last month, a huge sinkhole unexpectedly opened up, collapsing the road, in front of the Pantheon in Rome. Located in the Piazza Della Rotonda and measuring in at almost 10 square feet wide and over 8 feet deep, the large sinkhole wasn't filled with what everyone expected. Unfortunately, sinkholes like this are becoming more and more common in Rome. However, luckily, due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, no one was hurt when the sinkhole collapsed on the afternoon of April 27th.

Pantheon Temple
Archaeological investigations following the opening of a sinkhole in Piazza della Rotonda in front of the Pantheon in Rome have unearthed the ancient pavement of the imperial era.
(Image: © Alessandro Serrano'/AGF/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The Sinkhole

After all the dust had settled, archaeologists found seven ancient imperial paving stones that were laid over two millennia ago. The slabs are believed to be made of travertine, which is a sedimentary rock that was widely used at that time. Sinkholes, called "voragine" in Italian, are now a fairly common occurrence in Rome.

Pantheon Roman Temple
Credit: Soprintendenza Speciale Roma

These sinkholes occur due to the ground being unstable from ancient man-made tunnels, catacombs, and other underground cavities. Given that the majority of Rome sits on soft, sandy soil, heavy rainfall exacerbates the issue, and vibrations from cars or scooters only worsen the stability of the ground.

Panthon Pantheon Baths Of Caracalla
A sinkhole that opened up in front of the Pantheon in Rome last week has uncovered ancient Roman paving stones.

The Paving Stones

Pantheon Piazza Della Rotonda
Credit: Soprintendenza Speciale Roma

These stones were created around the same time that the Pantheon was built, from 27 B.C. to 25 B.C, according to Daniela Porro, Rome's special superintendent. They were designed by Marcus Agrippa, a friend of Emperor Augustus. However, they didn't stay for long as both the Pantheon and the piazza were completely rebuilt sometime between A.D. 118 and 128 by the emperor Hadrian, and the area was further modified at the beginning of the third century by the emperors Septimius Severus and Caracalla. These stones would have been used numerous times but were eventually built over and hidden until this sinkhole opened and revealed them all over again.

Pantheon Temple
Credit: Soprintendenza Speciale Roma
Soil Pantheon Baths Of Caracalla
Credit: Soprintendenza Speciale Roma

What could have been a tragedy has turned into a wonderful event! The pandemic lockdown meant that the usually busy piazza was empty so no one was around to be injured and at the same time, an amazing archaeological find was revealed, something which may not have ever been found if it weren't for the sinkhole, at least not for decades. While the city does have plans to fix the issues with sinkholes, this isn't immediate and until then, these sinkholes will continue to open up, leaving the possibility of even more wonderful finds like this one. It just shows the rich and unexplored potential of Rome’s hidden archaeological history.

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