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Multimethodological approach to study and characterize Forum Novum Vescovio central Italy.

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Archaeological Prospection
Archaeol. Prospect. 11, 201–212 (2004)
Published online 9 November 2004 in Wiley InterScience ( DOI: 10.1002/arp.235
Multimethodological Approach
to Studyand Characterize Forum
Novum (Vescovio,Central Italy)y
Department of Archaeology, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston,
Birmingham B15 2T7, UK
British School at Rome,Via Gramsci, 61, 00197 Roma, Italy
ITABC CNR, P.O. Box 10- 00016 Monterotondo Sc. Roma, Italy
Geophysical Archaeometry Laboratory, University of Miami, Japan Division, Japan
Department of Cultural Heritage Protection Centre, UNESCO (ACCU), Nara, Japan
The paperpresentstheresultsofanon-going studyofthe Romantown andearlymedievalbishopric of
Forum Novum at Vescovio in the middleTiber valley to the north of Rome.The work forms part of the
British School at Rome’sTiber Valley Project, which studies the changing landscapes of the middleTiber valleyas the hinterland of Rome through two millennia, from1000 BC to AD 1000. At Forum Novum a
range of remote sensing techniques are being combined with excavation to examine the extent and
organization ofa Roman town andits development through time.
From 1997 to 2001 a series of topographic and high-resolution ground-based remote sensing surveys took place at Forum Novum, which provide a basic map of the ancient centre.The integrated remote sensing surveys were carried out using the magnetic, geoelectric and ground-penetrating
radar (GPR) methods.The analysis of the gradiometric, resistivity and GPR time-slice maps indicate
that many structural foundations and walls of the buildings are stillwell preserved below the surface.
The results, which are presented and discussed in this paper, demonstrate the potential of remote
sensing techniques for our understanding of the extent and organization of urban centres.In the case
of Forum Novum, where much of the ancient centre lies under modern structures, GPR survey, in
particular, proved fundamental.Further, the results ofthe georadar surveyspermitted archaeologists
to select key areas of the town for more detailed investigation through excavation. Copyright 2004
JohnWiley & Sons,Ltd.
Key words: Forum Novum at Vescovio; integrated geophysical survey; fluxgate gradiometer;
resistivity; ground-penetrating radar; archaeologicalinterpretation
Since 1997 the Roman town and early medieval
bishopric of Forum Novum at Vescovio have
been the focus of a collaborative research project
* Correspondence to: S. Piro, ITABC—CNR, P.O. Box
10-00016 Monterotondo Sc. Roma, Italy.
Paper given at the Archaeological Prospection Conference,
September 2003.
Copyright # 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
involving the British School at Rome, the British
Museum and the University of Birmingham in
collaboration with the Institute of Technologies
Applied to Cultural Heritage (ITABC of the
National Research Council, Italy) and the Soprintendenza Archeologica per il Lazio (Ministery of
Cultural Heritage—Italy). The work at Forum
Novum was one of the new field projects being
developed as part of the British School at Rome’s
Middle Tiber Valley Project, a collaborative
research initiative that studies the Tiber Valley
Received 31 January 2004
Accepted 3 August 2004
V. Gaffney et al.
as the hinterland of Rome. The project draws on
the vast amount of work carried out in this area,
primarily on rural settlement, to investigate the
impact of the development of the Imperial city on
the history of the settlement, economy and culture of the middle river valley from 1000 BC to AD
1000 (Patterson and Millett, 1998; Patterson et al.,
2000; Keay and Millet, 2000; Keay et al., 2001).
The core of the project involves the detailed restudy of the material from Ward-Perkins’ South
Etruria survey carried out in the 1950s to 1970s,
the integration of this material with that of the
more recent survey of Farfa directed by John
Moreland in the 1980s, and the collection of published evidence from surveys and excavation
(Figure 1). The fundamental tool for the integra-
tion and analysis of the data is a GIS and database
system developed by Rob Witcher. The latter now
contains over 5000 sites ranging from surface
concentrations of material, to villas to towns
from the Bronze Age to the Medieval period.
An important element of the broader project is
new fieldwork aimed at filling the gaps in our
settlement knowledge. Three main lacunae have
been identified: the relatively poor understanding of towns in this area; the area of the east
bank, the Sabina, which has been studied less
systematically; and the poor understanding of
the late antique and early medieval landscape
(V. Gaffney et al., 2001). This is the context of
the work at Forum Novum, which offers a valuable opportunity to examine all these issues.
Figure1. Map of theTiber valley study area showing the location of Forum Novum at Vescovio.
Copyright # 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Archaeol. Prospect. 11, 201–212 (2004)
Forum Novum (Vescovio, Central Italy)
The archaeological site
Forum Novum at Vescovio lies in the Sabine hills
to the north east of Rome. Prior to the current
research, knowledge of the town was based on
epigraphic evidence (Filippi, 1989), occasional
references in the classical literary sources and
the excavations of part of the forum complex
carried out by the Soprintendenza Archeologica
per il Lazio during the early 1970s (Reggiani,
1971–74). As its name suggests, Forum Novum
was a new Roman foundation, established as a
forum or market sometime during the Republican period. By the first century AD it had
achieved the status of municipium, being mentioned as such in Pliny’s list of towns. The town
appears to have functioned throughout the
Imperial period and a market was still being
held at the centre in the fourth century. It is likely
that the town itself went into decline during the
fourth and fifth centuries, however, the centre
maintained its importance as a focus for the
surrounding territory during the early medieval
and medieval periods as a bishopric.
Prior to the current research, the Roman tombs
or mausolea aligning the roads into the centre
indicated that, despite its municipal status,
Forum Novum was a fairly small centre, however, its precise dimensions were uncertain. As
regards the layout of the Roman town, the excavations of the Soprintendenza had identified the
basilica, associated temple complex, part of the
forum and associated buildings of uncertain
function (Figure 2).
The preliminary reports of the excavations
(Reggiani, 1971–74; Santangelo, 1975–76; Alvino,
1995) suggest that the earliest phases of the
buildings in the forum are of the late second to
early first century BC, and the forum visible today
is probably of the Augustan period. The only
Figure 2. Plan of Forum Novum at Vescovio prior to the current research, showing the excavations of the forum complex, the
mausolea aligning the roads into the town and the church of Santa Maria inVescovio.
Copyright # 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Archaeol. Prospect. 11, 201–212 (2004)
other visible structure is the present church of
Santa Maria in Vescovio, situated immediately to
the northeast of the forum complex. The main
build of the church is largely Romanesque, however, part of the crypt and various architectural
fragments incorporated in the later structure are
of the early medieval period (late eighth to ninth
centuries) and the whole ecclesiastical complex
overlies Roman structures.
The aim of the current investigations is to
apply a series of approaches to the centre in
order to provide a detailed and systematic study,
in particular it investigates a specific form of
urbanism that has been greatly neglected in
studies of Roman urban history—fora. A range
of surface survey techniques, in particular
remote sensing techniques (magnetometry, resistivity and ground-penetrating radar) were used
to examine the size and layout of the town,
combined with intensive field survey to give an
indication of the chronology and function of the
buried structures (C. Gaffney and V. Gaffney,
2000; V. Gaffney et al., 2003). This was followed
by the excavation of selected areas to examine the
origins, and the social and economic development of the Roman town and early medieval
Ground-based remote-sensing surveys
From 1997 to 2001, a series of topographic and
ground-based remote-sensing surveys took place
at Forum Novum, which provide a basic map of
the ancient centre. The topographic survey permitted standing monuments and contemporary
features to be located within a common grid, and
remote-sensing surveys allowed the identification of buried structures and features. Initially,
remote-sensing surveys were restricted to magnetometry and resistivity.
Magnetic and geoelectric investigations
Data acquisition
Total station survey was undertaken in the
field using a Leica TC 805 total station and
processed using Penmap software. A Geoscan
FM 36 Fluxgate Gradiometer was used to carry
out the magnetic survey providing gradiometric
maps of the site. The RM 15 Resistance Meter
Copyright # 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
V. Gaffney et al.
from Geoscan was used to produce resistance
mapping, using twin probe array. The magnetic
and resistance surveys (undertaken by Meg
Watters, Birmingham University with the British
School at Rome) covered most of the site, beginning east of the excavations of the forum complex in an area thought most likely to have
structural remains. The survey followed a counter-clockwise direction covering the plain above
the Aia river. All of the geophysical data were
collected within 20 20 m grids with 1-m spacing of transects. Magnetometry survey had a
sample rate between two and four data points
per metre; the resistivity survey sampled one
point every metre. Resistivity survey was carried
out using the same grid and with readings taken
at 1-m intervals. In 1998, prior to excavation, a
limited area over the large villa was surveyed
using a tighter sample interval to provide a more
detailed map. The entire area surveyed with
these methods covered approximately 8 ha.
Data were processed using Geoscan’s Geoplot,
Idrisi (a GIS package) and Surfer softwares to
produce clear images of the geophysical data for
interpretation and presentation.
These two geophysical techniques produced
interesting results, in particular the identification
of a large villa just outside the town centre, and
the combination of resistivity and surface survey
identified the presence of a probable bath complex, again immediately outside the town centre,
Plates 1 and 2 and Figure 3. The magnetometry
survey identified a large gridded structure adjacent to the forum complex and a semicircular
feature of uncertain nature about 50 m to the
southwest. The other structural features identified by the survey were located outside the
town, comprising a sinuous magnetic anomaly
possibly associated with a small port facility, a
generalized magnetic activity and, the most
spectacular discovery, the clear plan of a large
Roman villa and various associated features,
Figure 3.
The plan of the villa was revealed by both resistivity and magnetometry techniques, Figures 3
and 4. Situated ca. 300 m from the forum, the
villa is separated from the urban centre by a
Roman road lined by mausolea. It measures
Archaeol. Prospect. 11, 201–212 (2004)
Forum Novum (Vescovio, Central Italy)
Figure 3. Forum Novum at Vescovio. Gradiometric results from the villa area (M.Watters).
approximately 60 70 m and appears to comprise four main groups of rooms around a great
central courtyard measuring 20 20 m. Within
the main body of the building the resistance
survey shows a central feature (presumably a
wall) in the central room of the northern range.
This is absent from the gradiometric data. The
preliminary processing of the resistivity data
revealed a large high-resistance feature covering
the southeastern corner of the building, suggesting the presence of an area of collapsed masonry,
or even a floor. A high-pass filter was then used
to remove large low-frequency anomalies and
expose smaller high-frequency features.
Copyright # 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Both resistivity and magnetometry revealed
traces of a linear feature, possibly composed of
two parallel walls, leading from the south of the
villa west towards the river. There was also a
second possible corridor leading towards a high
resistance feature south of the villa, Figure 4. This
feature, which appears on the resistivity plan as a
large black concentration, is again possibly indicative of a floor area or masonry collapse. Unlike
the area of the villa, which revealed very few
surface finds, this feature is associated with a
dense concentration of surface material, including marble, fragments of mosaic floor and flue
tiles, all indicative of a bath complex.
Archaeol. Prospect. 11, 201–212 (2004)
V. Gaffney et al.
Figure 4. Forum Novum at Vescovio.Resistivity results from the villa area, afterdata processing using a high-pass filterof x radius
and y radius10 (M.Watters).
Much of the ancient town lay under modern
structures such as a restaurant, bar, carparks,
roads and the church of Santa Maria in Vescovio
itself, conditions that were not suitable for magnetometry and resistivity. Therefore, it was clear
from these initial surveys that, in order to understand the layout of the town itself, these techniques alone were not satisfactory.
The GPR investigation
Data acquisition
In 1998 high-resolution GPR surveys (conducted by ITABC-CNR) were applied over
two areas to test the potential of this technique
for resolving these problems. One of the advantages of GPR surveys is that it could be applied
Copyright # 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
in conditions where it was impossible to use
magnetometry and resistivity (for example tarmac and gravel surfaces), and secondly that it
provides plans of the buried structures at different depths.
For the measurements, a GSSI SIR 10Aþ was
used, equipped with 300 MHz and 500 MHz
bistatic antennae with constant offset. At each
site radar profiles were collected alternatively in
reversed and unreversed directions across the
survey grids. The horizontal spacing between
parallel profiles at the site was 0.5 m. Radar reflections along the transects were recorded continuously across the ground at 80 scan s1, with a
stack ¼ 4; along each profile, markers were spaced
every 1 m to provide spatial reference. The
gain control was manually adjusted to be more
Archaeol. Prospect. 11, 201–212 (2004)
Forum Novum (Vescovio, Central Italy)
effective. The data were later corrected for a
variation in speed to constant 30 scans m1 (or
1 scan approximately 0.03 m). All radar reflections within a 75–85 ns (two-way travel time)
time window were recorded digitally in the field
as 8 bit data and 512 samples per radar scan.
When GPR profiles are collected on closely
spaced profiles, the data can be processed to
display horizontal maps of the recorded radar
amplitudes. Referred to as time-slice processing,
these anomaly maps can be generated at various
time–depth windows across the recorded radargram data set. The time-slice maps can provide
information regarding the size, shape, location
and depth of subsurface archaeological structures
buried beneath a site (Goodman et al., 1995;
Malagodi et al., 1996; Conyers and Goodman,
1997; Piro et al., 2002).
Time-slice data were created using the spatially averaged square wave amplitudes of the
return reflection. The squared amplitude, which
is essentially the energy in the waveform, was
averaged horizontally every 0.25 m along the
radargram profile, and in 8 ns time windows to
create a time-slice parameter. These averaged
square amplitudes were then gridded using a
kriging routine (Goodman et al., 2001, 2002; Piro
et al., 2002, 2003). The motivation for desampling
the information, i.e. spatially averaging, along
the radargram profiles is to help create visually
useful time-slice maps. In the case when all the
data along the radargram is being used, the timeslice maps usually show striation patterns that
are contiguous with the profile directions. The
spatially averaged time-slice parameter minimizes the effects of line striation parallel to the
profile direction. The rather large vertical averaging window of 8 ns for this particular site
proved to yield the best images of the subsurface
Thinner slices were also computed at 2 ns
intervals. These images, although they showed
better depth resolutions of localized archaeological anomalies, gave less of a clear picture of
larger, contiguous archaeological structures. The
larger time window helped to create an understandable visualization of the subsurface. In particular, when structures are not level within the
ground or when velocity variations across the
site are significant, the larger time window can
Copyright # 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
illuminate continuous features at variable depths
(Conyers and Goodman, 1997). Other line noises,
parallel to the profile collection direction, were
removed using a moving filter with customized
threshold settings. Filter thresholds were set to
signal levels just below the average reflections
from buried Roman walls.
A high-to-low amplitude scale is normally
presented as part of the legend of each map,
but without specific units because, in GPR,
absolute reflected wave amplitudes are usually
The first results confirmed this potential:
GPR survey of the area of the villa gave good
correspondence with the results obtained by the
previous magnetometry and resistivity surveys,
Figure 5. The earliest GPR investigation was
conducted using a 300 MHz antenna. In this first
survey a rather coarse profile spacing of 1 m was
used. Nonetheless, a nearly complete plan of a
Roman villa on the northwest side of the church
was imaged. In this figure an overlay of timeslice grids with individual gains adjusted was
used to create the best single image of the villa in
the time window 20.5–27.3 ns (twt, two way
travel time).
The most striking results, however, came from
the second area, now a car-park, to the south of
the forum complex. For this area, GPR time slices
Figure 5. Forum Novum at Vescovio, the villa. A GPR timeslice, overlays of the strongest reflectors in the time window
20.5^27.3 ns.
Archaeol. Prospect. 11, 201–212 (2004)
V. Gaffney et al.
Figure 6. Forum Novum at Vescovio, the market place. AGPR time slice in the 0^39.1 ns time windows (twt) showing the presence
of rooms and even doorways.
at consecutive 10 ns intervals were computed.
The top time-slice shows a Y shaped shallow
anomaly, which could be interpreted as surface
effects caused by a Y-shaped dirt roadway running through the survey area. Just below the
ground surface in the 10–20 ns time-slices, rectangular shaped structures are imaged. The
structures are clearly seen in the lower time
slice (20–30 ns) as well and are believed to
be warehouses adjacent to the main marketplace.
The results of the GPR survey revealed a clear
image of a complex of axial and linear structures,
possibly fronted by a colonnade respecting a
road, and with room divisions and doorways
clearly visible, Figure 6. It is interesting to note
that the structures appear to be on alignment
with the latest phase of the forum and basilica
complex, suggesting that they were constructed
at the same time. The structures had been interpreted as a horreum or warehouse.
On the basis of these results, GPR survey was
then applied, during 1999–2001, over three
further areas with the following results.
(i) To the southwest of the forum complex, in an
area that is now a gravelled carpark, the
semicircular feature of uncertain nature identified by the magnetometry survey was
Copyright # 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
clearly revealed to be the plan of an amphitheatre, Plate 3. Shown in Plate 3 are time slices
from one area carried out at the Forum Novum site. In the top time-slice (0 ns twt),
several geophysical features can be seen,
Plate 3a. Many of these features also appeared
as crop marks, which could be easily viewed
on the surface of the site. Archaeologists often
decide to forego geophysical survey when
clear crop marks representing subsurface
structures are visible. In this case, however,
just below the ground surface at 6.7 ns, an
oval shaped structure is beginning to be imaged. This oval becomes clearer on the deeper
slice at 20.1 ns. The oval clearly represents the
arena wall of an amphitheatre, measuring ca.
30 40 m with two main entrances and six
secondary entrances. The clear plan of the
amphitheatre, as revealed by the GPR survey,
is striking, especially if one considers that no
crop marks from this structure could be seen.
Without the geophysical survey, the existence
of this amphitheatre would have remained
(ii) In the area around the excavations of the
forum complex, the survey identified a number of structures including the podium of a
temple, Figure 7.
Archaeol. Prospect. 11, 201–212 (2004)
Plate 1. Forum Novum at Vescovio. Orientated gradiometric maps. Results from the 1997^99 seasons. (Image by Meg Watters,
University of Birmingham.) Scale1: 4000.
Plate 2. Forum Novum at Vescovio. Oriented resistivity maps. Results from the1997^99 seasons (Meg Watters). Scale1: 3000.
Copyright # 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Archaeol. Prospect. 11, (2004)
Plate 3. (a) Forum Novum at Vescovio, the amphitheatre. Ground-penetrating radar time-slices at 0 ns and 6.7 ns time window
(twt), showing the plan of the amphitheatre and other structures near the forum complex.The left time-slice shows several geometric figures that correspond to the shapes of some of the crop marks at the site.The right time-slice indicates the presence of
a large oval structure amphitheatre. The blank area running through the amphitheatre corresponds to the line of the modern
fence, which divides a gravelparking area from a field used for pasture. (b) AGPR time-slice at 20.1 nstime window (twt) with excavation photograph and interpretation.This time-slice indicates the presence of a large oval structure, which becomes significantly
cleares on the deeper time-slices. A total of eight entrances (e1^e8) are identified in the 21ns time-slice map. Entrance e8 was
not surveyed owing to obstruction during the survey, which included a fence that transects the site.The excavated area concentrated on the e8 area, which was inaccessible during the survey but nonetheless could be deduced from the time-slice.
Copyright # 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Archaeol. Prospect. 11, (2004)
Copyright # 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Archaeol. Prospect. 11, (2004)
Plate 4. Forum Novum at Vescovio, the funerary precinct. A GPR time-slice in the19.5^24.5 ns time window (twt) showing the presence of a triangular precinct with associated
funerary complex.
Copyright # 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Archaeol. Prospect. 11, (2004)
Plate 5. Forum Novum at Vescovio. Preliminary archaeological interpretation of the results of all geophysical methods used, positioned and orientated with respect to the previous excavated archaeological structures. Red: GPR results; blue: resistivity results; green: magnetometry results. Scale1: 3500.
Forum Novum (Vescovio, Central Italy)
Figure 7. Forum Novum at Vescovio, the podium. A GPR time-slice in the 16^24 ns time window (twt) showing the presence of a
podium of a temple and other structures.
(iii) To the southwest of the villa, in an area
where magnetometry and resistivity had
suggested the presence of buried structures,
GPR survey produced further evidence for
this feature, revealing it to be part of a large
diamond-shaped precinct, which had as its
focus a probable mausoleum associated
with funerary structures, Plate 4. Excavations of these structures in 2001 and 2003
revealed the existence of an impressive funerary complex of Republican and early
Imperial date.
Results and archaeological
Remote-sensing survey is an invaluable technique, especially for large sites such as Forum
Novum, where it has provided a plan of the
buried structures and an indication as to the
dimensions and the organization of the centre,
as well as highlighting areas worthy of excavation. However, in order to fully comprehend the
chronology of the structures identified, their
function and the development of the centre overall through time, excavation is fundamental. To
this end, excavations were carried out of selected
Copyright # 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
areas: (i) the villa identified just outside the town
centre, (ii) the amphitheatre, (iii) the funerary
complex and (iv) an area behind the church,
aimed specifically at investigating the later
phases of occupation of the site and the transition
between the Roman and medieval phases.
The villa
The villa identified by remote sensing survey just
outside the centre of the town, measured ca.
60 70 m. It was orientated approximately
north–south, with a large central courtyard
around which were four suites of rooms. Over
3 years some 60% of the surface area of the villa
buildings were excavated. The results have confirmed the accuracy of the geophysical plans,
however, excavations revealed a much more
complex site history than that suggested by the
geophysical survey alone. The large proportion
of the villa that was excavated permits an outline
of its history. In the middle of the first century AD
a large platform was raised and on it were laid
the foundations for a villa of monumental proportions. It is these foundations that are largely
visible in the geophysical plans. No area of the
villa, however, produced evidence of floor surfaces or finished walls related to this first phase
Archaeol. Prospect. 11, 201–212 (2004)
V. Gaffney et al.
of construction. They do seem to survive, however, from a second phase, datable to the third
quarter of the first century AD when several small
rooms were created in the southeast, northeast
and northwest corners of the villa. The occupation of these structures was brief and probably
ends in the late first or early second century AD.
There is no evidence of subsequent reoccupation.
Along the axis from the entrance to the centre
and northern part of the villa developments are
different. In this area, a staircase, fountain and
piscina remain in use until the early to mid-third
century, when there is firm evidence for demolition and the dumping of rubble and refuse. That
this was a piscina used, or intended to be used,
for rearing fish is confirmed by the presence of
rows of pots set into the walls, their mouths
opening to the piscina. Both Columella and Pliny
allude to the high social status that these structures imply. The piscina at the villa at Forum
Novum is unique in the Sabina area and as an
inland freshwater pool is comparatively rare in
Italy (see for example Higginbotham (1997), who
mentions only seven other such sites). By the late
third to early fourth centuries, the piscina is
nearly full. Between the fourth and sixth centuries AD, a row of crudely partitioned rooms
occupies part of the northern courtyard, the
associated material suggests intense activity in
this area (tile, dolia, pottery and coins), probably
of an agricultural nature. Their abandonment
and the use of the site for burials in the later
sixth century seems to mark the end of any
organized habitation.
The amphitheatre
Georadar survey provided the plan of a previously unknown amphitheatre. Although an
inscription records gladiatorial combats held at
Forum Novum in the first century AD, the lack of
any evident structures had led scholars to suppose that an amphitheatre did not exist and that
the contests were held in the campus (Filippi,
1989). The survey plan, however, clearly showed
an arena wall measuring ca. 30 40 m with two
main entrances and six secondary entrances. In
2000 excavations of the main northwest entrance
revealed part of the arena wall (Plate 3b). The
latter was ca. 0.9 m wide, composed of mortared
Copyright # 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
cobble, it was recessed into the natural gravels
and stood to a height of 1.3 m, originally, however, it would have stood at least 2 m high. The
lower parts of the wall were faced with red
plaster. Within the arena, the earliest identifiable
surface was cobbled and covered by a thick layer
of soil that may represent repeated resurfacing.
A series of drystone walls, composed mainly of
large cobbles, were identified to the rear of the
arena wall and formed a series of cells. The
precise nature of these structures is uncertain. It
is most likely (Gaffney et al., 2001) that they
functioned as a base for massive sleeper beams
from which vertical timbers would have sprung
to support wooden seating. If this is the case, the
amphitheatre at Forum Novum represents a rare,
excavated example, at least in Italy, of a timber
structure on stone foundations, which may once
have been common in Roman Italy. Such a model
has been suggested, for example, for the
amphitheatre built by Statilius Taurus in Rome
in 29 BC and destroyed by the Neronian fire of AD
64, that of Ampurias in Spain of the first century
AD and that of Silchester (Calleva Attrebatum) in
Britain of the early second century AD (Golvin,
However, this model was much more common
outside Italy, and it is possible that these stone
‘cells’ are not bases for timber structures, but that
they were originally much greater in height and
that the structure of the amphitheatre at Forum
Novum is similar to that of other Roman towns
in Italy. In either case, the earth from the excavations of the arena would have been used to infill
and support the timber or stone structures and
act as a support for wooden seating. Provisional
calculations estimate that the amphitheatre at
Forum Novum would have held ca. 2000 people.
Analysis of the pottery suggests that the
amphitheatre was constructed in the early first
century AD, the same period to which the inscription referring to gladiatorial games at Forum
Novum is dated, however, by the late second to
early third centuries AD it had fallen into disuse.
The funerary complex
To the west of the villa stands a substantial core
of rubble and brick, assumed to be the remains of
another mausolea. In 2001 a trench was opened
Archaeol. Prospect. 11, 201–212 (2004)
Forum Novum (Vescovio, Central Italy)
next to the structure to investigate an area of high
concentrations of surface material, including pottery, glass and tesserae. Excavations revealed a
series of walls, clearly related to the mausoleum
which seemed to form a funerary precinct, comprising a gravel courtyard and a large square
structure with an interior, curved wall which
respected the mausoleum (Plate 4). Pottery
recovered from the foundation of the precinct
wall shows that it was constructed in the
Augustan period (30 BC to AD 10). The funerary
precinct appears to have been abandoned in the
third century AD. Georadar survey also identified
a number of square or rectangular shaped structures aligning the precinct wall. Excavations
revealed these to be tombs of Republican date.
southwest of the villa, the survey identified a
large triangular or diamond-shaped precinct, the
function of which is uncertain, however, it has as
its focus a mausoleum and associated funerary
complex. The northern wall of the precinct follows the same orientation as the villa, and a
major resistance anomaly, later investigated
and shown to be part of a bath complex, aligns
the southern edge of the precinct. Other features
revealed by the remote-sensing survey that
require further investigation are a sinuous magnetic feature close to the river that may be
associated with a port facility and generalized
magnetic activity along areas of the river.
We would like to thank the Soprintendente Anna
Reggiani, and the inspector of the area, Giovanna
Alvino, of the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici del Lazio for their support and encouragement. We also wish to thank Meg Watters
(University of Birmingham) for the magnetic and
resistance elaboration and representation;
Daniele Verrecchia (ITABC-CNR) for his valuable assistance with the GPR survey and Helen
Goodchild and Stephen Key (British School at
Rome) for some of the graphics presented in this
paper. We would also like to thank Tersilio
Leggio of the Provincia di Rieti, the Comune of
Torri in Sabina and the Consorzio del Museo
Preliminary archaeological interpretations, using
the results obtained with all geophysical methods, are shown in the Plate 5, with different
colours. Remote sensing survey (magnetometry,
resistivity and ground-penetrating radar) permits the following conclusions regarding the
urban topography of the Roman town. Forum
Novum was a small centre, ca. 4 ha in size, and
composed primarily of public buildings. A final
season of GPR survey is required of the area
immediately to the north of the forum complex
in order to define the northwesternmost edge of
the town. Recent ploughing in this area brought
to light large quantities of building material. In
the immediate vicinity of the excavated forum
area, basilica and associated temple complex,
remote sensing survey identified several structural features, including the podium of a temple
just to the northeast of the temple complex and
basilica. To the southwest the survey revealed
the foundations of an amphitheatre, its oval
arena, with two main and six secondary
entrances. The only evidence for habitation
within the town remains what appears to be a
residential block possibly with associated shop
frontages, immediately to the south of the basilica. Interesting results were also obtained of
structures just outside the town centre. To the
northeast of the forum, the clear plan of a large
suburban villa was revealed. Immediately to the
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