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Ancient Roman road and dock discovered in Venice lagoon

Ancient Roman road and dock discovered in Venice lagoon

The discovery of the remains of a Roman road and dock submerged in the Venice lagoon could prove there were permanent human settlements in the area centuries before Venice was founded, researchers say.

Scuba divers discovered what appeared to be paving stones beneath the lagoon in the 1980s, but only after more recent research were the relics confirmed to have formed part of a road system.

“After speaking to those who first found these stones in the 1980s, I understood that it was something significant that could be anthropic,” said Fantina Madricardo, a researcher at the Venice-based Institute of Marine Science (Ismar) whose study was published this week in the Scientific Reports journal.

Madricardo and her colleagues used 3D sonar mapping to study the underwater environment, and with the help of a team of divers from the local police force found 12 archaeological structures last summer in the area of the Treporti Channel.

“As these stones are completely covered by diverse vegetation, it was not totally clear,” said Madricardo. “So we investigated more than one structure and found they had the same type of stones.”

The structures, which were up to 2.7 metres tall and 52.7 metres long, were aligned in a north-easterly direction for about 1,140 metres. They are believed to have formed part of a system of roads in the Veneto region that may have been used by people to travel between the present-day city of Chioggia and the ancient city of Altinum.

Previously gathered data shows that the road is located on a sandy ridge that was above sea level during the Roman era.

Venice is believed to have been formally founded on 25 March AD421, and marked its 1,600th anniversary this year.

“The landscape was very different to what we see today … the sea level was much lower, at least 2 metres lower,” said Madricardo.

Meanwhile, Venice narrowly missed being placed on Unesco’s endangered list on Thursday after the government banned cruise ships from the lagoon.


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