Archaeologists believe they have uncovered the oldest known Roman temple and are discovering just how Romans had a hand in shaping their urban environment, National Public Radio reported.
The excavation site of what is called the Medieval Sant'Omobono church in the center of Rome is about 100 yards away from the Tiber River, but researchers believe the river flowed near the site around 7th century B.C., creating a natural harbor for merchant ships.
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"And here they decide to create a temple," Nic Terrenato, who teaches classical archaeology at the University of Michigan, told NPR. "At this point Rome is trading already as far afield as Cyprus, Lebanon, Egypt. So they build this temple, which is going to be one of the first things the traders see when they pull into the harbor of Rome."
The excavation is facing some complications, because it below Rome's current water table.
The temple's discovery came after groups in the United States and Italy raised funds for the sophisticated project that required specific technology because of its location.
The project commenced last summer as a joint project between the University of Michigan and Rome Archaeology.
"They're digging at the very bottom of this trench, at about seven-and-a-half feet below the water," Archaeologist Albert Ammerman, a research professor at Colgate who called the excavation "mission impossible," told NPR.
Ammerman divides his time between teaching at Colgate and conducting projects in Rome, Athens, and Venice, or more recently on islands such as Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean.
By digging through the city's many layers, archaeologists say they have learned that early Rome had high hills and deep valleys that were prone to flooding. The city's founders chopped off hilltops, and dumped them into lowlands to make the city flatter and drier, according to NPR.
"It's actually not totally natural, it's the humans are actually changing the river to the way it is here," Ammerman said. "They had the ability to realize that to make their city go, they have to transform the landscape."
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