Scientists Have Fully Mapped This Ancient City


Science | By Eliana Tremblay | June 15, 2020

It can be easy to take for granted the data we have at our disposal about where we live. Everything from traffic to cafes is layered onto our maps, enabling us to run our errands, avoid accidents, and get exactly the right region of Thai food we want for lunch.

The truth is, the ancient Romans probably took all that for granted too, because goofy togas or not, they had knowledge, they had tech, and they wrote it all down. And because of that, we know tons about just exactly how they liked to lay out a new city.

But you take some barbarians here, some basic decline and weathering there, some stuff falls out of order, and before you know it, you're having a hard time finding your way to your favorite breakfast spot in the ancient Roman city of Falerii Novi.

Ground-Penetrating Radar Leads To Breakthrough

Enter a team of archaeologists from the University of Cambridge in England and Ghent University in Belgium. Using the latest in ground penetrating radar (or GPR), which dates back to 1910 and has already been applied to problems ranging from glacier depth to forgotten land mines, the scientists would be able to glean information not readily apparent either during the first physical excavation of the city some thirty years ago, or during less sophisticated non-invasive techniques in the intervening years.

Thus, while a reconstructed map of the city already featured various notable structures, including shops, marketplaces, warehouses and more, a new scan of the roughly 75 acres where the city stood via an ATV-mounted GPR device added previously unreachable detail to our understanding of the city and its evolution over centuries of inhabitation by orders of magnitude.

Newest Analysis Finds Public Pool, Monuments

The results of the new survey (and one conducted with similar methods in 2017) include a variety of new buildings and structures beneath what had already been excavated- an outcome that would once have been impossible without damage to the construction from the later years of the city in shallower depths. The results were especially good due to the ideal conditions of the Falerii Novi site, which had the sandy soil, dry climate, and absence of modern construction in which GPR functions best.

The newly found structures include a temple that would have been the size of St. Paul's cathedral, public monuments near the city's north gate, and the remains of an open-air pool that had been part of an extensive public baths system that would have been typical of any Roman city in which significant investment had been made.

Analysis And Next Steps

The survey was so successful that the biggest problem of the team of archaeologists will be fully analyzing their now extensive data set, which encompasses some 71.7 million readings, and drawing conclusions. What is known from it so far is merely the most low-hanging fruit of a cursory examination, and it will take nearly fifty hours to fully scrutinize the data points from each acre.

The success of the new technique, signal major breakthroughs to be made at a number of ancient sites in Turkey, Greece and more. "The astonishing level of detail which we have achieved at Falerii Novi, and the surprising features that GPR has revealed, suggest that this type of survey could transform the way archaeologists investigate urban sites, as total entities," said co-author Martin Millett of the University of Cambridge

Did You Know...

I

Most of your favorite celebrities either studied acting in college or went straight from high school into a life of the arts. But, hey, not all of them. Some celebrities actually have advanced college degrees.

II

Turns out Mayim Bialik is just as much of a genius as the one she plays on The Big Bang Theory. She earned her Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of California, Los Angeles, focusing on obsessive compulsive disorder among people with Prader-Willi syndrome, a rare condition in which the hypothalamus malfunctions.

III

Little known fact: Natalie Portman skipped the premiere of Star Wars: Phantom Menace because she was studying for her high school exams. She had two papers published in scientific journals while she was still in high school, and graduated from Harvard University with a B.A. in Psychology.

IV

Before he was looking for answers on X-Files, David Duchovny was just trying to find the answers for English finals at Princeton University90. David graduated from Princeton in 1982 with a B.A in English. He continued to feed his love of literature by receiving a master’s degree in English Literature at Yale University. David was an excellent writer and poet. His work consistently received praise by his fellow classmates and teachers at Yale. His writing was even nominated for a college prize by the Academy of American Poets.

V

Sigourney Weaver graduated from Stanford University in 1971 with a bachelor’s in Literature. It was while studying at Stanford that Sigourney realized her true passion in life was to become an actress. Shortly after graduation, she attended Yale for their well-known drama program. She would go on to receive a master’s in Acting from Yale University and become friends with fellow famous actress Meryl Streep.

VI

Meryl Streep is considered one of the most successful actresses of all time. She is also one of the most highly educated. Before collecting an array of Oscars, Meryl collected diplomas. She graduated from Vassar College with a B.A. in 1971. Meryl has a habit of being unsatisfied with impressive accomplishments as her acting career has shown, so she attended Yale University and earned a master’s degree in Acting.


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