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Team discovers Roman forum

Brooke Kovanda | Wednesday, December 7, 2011

 

After six grave sites, 133 coins and over 10,000 fragments of animal bone, archaeologists with assistant professor of classics David Hernandez’s excavation team hit pay dirt, or rather, pay pavement, in the form of an ancient Roman forum. 

This summer, Hernandez and a team of Notre Dame undergraduates embarked on a six-week excavation trip to Butrint, Albania, where they made the discovery. 

Hernandez shared his thoughts on the trip during a lecture Wednesday night.

Since the 1920s archaeologists have probed the site, producing evidence of a Greek sanctuary of Asclepius, a medieval house, a Venetian castle and now, a Roman forum, he said.

The forum was a rectangular plaza surrounded by government buildings in ancient Rome, and its discovery holds key insight into the urban history of the area of Butrint, Hernandez said.   

Before the most recent excavation began, a small corner of the forum had already been discovered, and the goal was to find just how far it expanded eastward. The discovery of the intact pavement slabs was a critical moment, he said.  

“The pavement slabs themselves, just flush and intact, it’s easy to take it for granted in retrospect, but really, we had no idea if these pavement slabs were going to be preserved this far away from where we had found them before,” Hernandez said. “The entire pavement was preserved, and I knew at this moment, that this is one of the best preserved Roman forums in the provinces of the Roman Empire. There just aren’t forums like this that are preserved in this way.”

On the last day of the excavation, the team made a rare find.

“Right at the very end of the excavation, we found the head of a goddess figurine, which was a votive offering that dates to the fourth century B.C.,” Hernandez said.  “It was really a beautiful find, in the 11th hour, and it was one of these electrifying moments.”  

Butrint, recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage Site in 1992, is located in an area of Albania where ancient maritime trade was prominent.

The region’s well-preserved layers of archaeological artifacts dating back to the 7th century B.C. were slowly unearthed during the excavation.