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20 January 2006
3,000-year-old necropolis unearthed in Rome

Archaeologists digging beneath the Roman Forum have discovered a 3,000-year-old necropolis that pre-dates the birth of ancient Rome by several hundred years. State Television showed an excavation team removing vases from a tomb, which resembled a deep well.
     Archaeologists were excavating under the level of the ancient forum, a popular tourist site, when they dug up the tomb, which they suspect is part of an entire necropolis, Italian news agency ANSA reported. Inside it was a perfectly preserved funeral urn dating from a thousand years before Christ, the city's cultural superintendent said. The first tomb is exceptionally big and well-preserved, with its 1.2-metre-wide, hut-like roof. Its form resembles a well. A funerary urn that contains human ashes was found in the tomb, as well as bone fragments that appeared to be from a sheep. "We've found people's possessions, like small miniatures of lances, vases and shields that reproduce the aspects of the dead person's domestic life," Archaeologist Alessandro Delfino said.
      Delfino said he found the roof of a second tomb just meters away from a tomb he discovered and dug up a few days before. Finding another tomb could "indicate the existence of a series of tombs that were built well before the city's foundation," he said. Delfino added the necropolis was destined for high-ranking personalities - like warriors and ancient priests - heading the tribes and clans that lived in small villages scattered on hills near the area which later spawned one of the world's greatest civilizations.
     State Television quoted experts as saying the tombs appeared to date to about 1000 BCE, meaning the people who constructed the necropolis preceded the legendary founders of Rome by some three centuries. It dates from the transition from Bronze to Iron ages, Rome's archaeology commissioner, Eugenio La Rocca, said. The tomb and its artefacts, which date from the 11th century BCE, will help historians learn more about a time before the foundation of Rome around 750 BCE. Legend has it that Rome was founded in 753 BC by Romulus and Remus, the twin sons of the god of war, Mars.
     
Sources: ANSA, Associateds Press, Iol.co.za, SBS, The Sydney Morning Herald (20 January 2006)

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