Scientists Discover Roman Road Below Venice Lagoon

Exploring Venice before it was Venice

Venice lagoon
Venice Lagoon at dusk.

Venice has a long history, including a period of time when it was a nation unto itself. An article at Fodor’s dates the construction of Venice as we currently understand it to around 1,600 years ago, “when refugees from the mainland fled to the islands in the lagoon.” And we now have a better sense of what was happening before then, thanks to some underwater research that’s been underway for most of the last decade.

Writing at ARTnews, Megan I. Gannon described a recent scientific study that offers a glimpse of Venice before it was Venice. This includes a Roman road and what may be dock facilities — all currently located below the waters of the lagoon.

In 2013, Fantina Madricardo of Venice’s Institute of Marine Science began using sonar to survey the lagoon. She is the lead author of a new study published last week in Scientific Reports. “The presence of the ancient Roman road confirms the hypothesis of a stable system of Roman settlements in the Venice Lagoon,” Madricardo and her co-authors wrote in the study’s abstract.

The sonar was only one ingredient in the research. Madricardo and her colleagues built on work done by archaeologists in the 1980s and used footage from police divers to assemble a picture of the underwater landscape. She also pointed out that this is just the beginning of understanding Venice’s early days. “It’s not a finished puzzle, of course,” she told ARTnews. But it does offer a clearer sense of the past of one of Europe’s most famous cities.

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