Entire ancient Roman town mapped out by radar technology

Falerii Novi in Italy was mapped out by radar technology
Falerii Novi in Italy was mapped out by radar technology Copyright LIEVEN VERDONCK, GHENT UNIVERSITY
By Luke Hurst with Associated Press
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Researchers think the new technique could revolutionize the study of ancient settlements.


Archaeologists have mapped out an entire ancient Roman town without digging up any of the ground above it, using advanced radar technology. 

Falerii Novi, 50 kilometres north of Rome in the Italian region of Lazio, was mapped out with the new technique which works like aircraft radar, bouncing radio waves off objects up to two metres below the surface.

By driving a quadbike holding the radar equipment over the site, they discovered a bath complex, market, temple, public monument, and even the town's sprawling network of water pipes.

According to the researchers the town was first occupied in 241 BC and measures a little over 30 acres, just under half the size of Pompeii.

Publishing the results in the journal Antiquity, they say the technology could revolutionise the study of ancient settlements, which are often difficult to study because they cannot be dug up. 

"We've done work there before that showed that some of the geophysical techniques work quite well. So, we were expecting to see quite a lot of the Roman town, but what we got from this technique is truly spectacular," says Professor Martin Millett from the University of Cambridge.

"Archaeology, most of the time is sort of fairly quiet and hard work and boring, not much coming through. But with geophysics, when you get good results, you do the work, and you open the computer file and you go; 'Wow, that's really exciting. That's something I hadn't seen before,'" he added.

The data shows the settlement at depths around every ten centimetres, meaning archaeologists can study how the town evolved through history.

It's thought the radar technology will make it possible to study larger areas in higher resolution than ever before.

Video editor • Ivan Sougy

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