Ancient Roman graveyard of...olive oil.

9:23 PM

In the middle of Rome’s trendiest neighborhood, surrounded by sushi restaurants and nightclubs with names like Rodeo Steakhouse and Love Story, sits the ancient world’s biggest garbage dump—a 150-foot-tall mountain of discarded Roman amphoras, the shipping drums of the ancient world. It takes about 20 minutes to walk around Monte Testaccio, from the Latin testa and Italian cocci, both meaning “potsherd.”

Most local residents don’t know what’s underneath the grass, dust, and scattering of trees. Monte Testaccio looks like a big hill, and in Rome people are accustomed to hills. In fact it's the biggest ancient roman rubbish dump.

For more than 250 years the ancient Romans methodically piled up broken terracotta amphorae, or oil jars, creating Monte Testaccio. Also known as Monte dei Cocci (literally meaning "Mount of Shards"), the mountain of jars is located right next to the ancient Tiber River port, and the Horrea Galbae warehouses, which would have been used to store imported goods like olive oil.'

Monte Testaccio was not simply a haphazard waste dump; it was a highly organised and carefully engineered creation, presumably managed by a state administrative authority. Excavations carried out in 1991 showed that the mound had been raised as a series of level terraces with retaining walls made of nearly intact amphorae filled with shards to anchor them in place. Empty amphorae were probably carried up the mound intact on the backs of donkeys or mules and then broken up on the spot, with the shards laid out in a stable pattern. Lime appears to have been sprinkled over the broken pots to neutralise the smell of rancid oil.

As the oldest parts of Monte Testaccio are at the bottom of the mound, it is difficult to say with any certainty when it was first created. Deposits found by excavators have been dated to a period between approximately AD 140 to 250, but it is possible that dumping could have begun on the site as early as the 1st century BC.

Monte Testaccio has provided archaeologists with a rare insight into the ancient Roman economy. The amphorae deposited in the mound were often labelled with tituli picti, painted or stamped inscriptions which record information such as the weight of the oil contained in the vessel, the names of the people who weighed and documented the oil and the name of the district where the oil was originally bottled. This has allowed archaeologists to determine that the oil in the vessels was imported under state authority and was designated for the annona urbis (distribution to the people of Rome) or the annona militaris (distribution to the army). The Romans obviously had an enormous appetite for olive oil, far outstripping local resources. As a result, oil was imported from all across the far flung empire, and markings known as "tituli picti" on the jars show that they originated primarily from Spain, Libya, and Tunisia. The huge numbers of broken amphorae at Monte Testaccio illustrate the enormous demand for oil of imperial Rome, which was at the time the world's largest city with a population of at least one million people. It has been estimated that the hill contains the remains of as many as 53 million olive oil amphorae, in which some 6 billion litres (1.3 billion imperial gallons/1.6 billion U.S. gallons) of oil were imported. Studies of the hill's composition suggest that Rome's imports of olive oil reached a peak towards the end of the 2nd century AD, when as many as 130,000 amphorae were being deposited on the site each year.

Monte Testaccio also had a religious significance; it was formerly used on Good Friday to represent the hill of Golgotha in Jerusalem, when the Pope would lead a procession to the summit and placed crosses to represent those of Jesus and the two thieves crucified alongside him. Monte Testaccio is still crowned with a cross in commemoration of the event.

You Might Also Like

0 komentarze