Excavations of the Porticus Aemilia



In the heart of the rione Testaccio one finds the standing remains of one of the largest buildings of ancient Rome.

The building is commonly identified as the Porticus Aemilia, an enormous warehouse for the storage of grain and other agricultural products. It is situated nearby the Tiber and connected to the Republican harbour of Rome. The archaeological research executed by the SSBAR, the KNIR and the VU has revealed interesting results about the use of the Porticus through the centuries.

The Porticus Aemila measured approx. 60 x 500 m and consisted in 50 aisles descending towards the Tiber. The aisles were separated by arches and covered by barrel vaults. In the Imperial period the old walls of the Porticus were reused for a new building. In one of the aisles excavated by our team, two rooms of this new building were uncovered which are connected by stairs. Both rooms have well preserved and plastered walls. The one located towards the back wall of the Porticus has a ground floor raised on piers to permit the circulation of air and to avoid damp. This floor and the plan of the building indicate a function as a storage room (a cella of a horreum ) and the finds of carbonised emmer wheat, basic ingredient of bread, sustain this interpretation.

Along the rear wall of the Porticus, outside of the building, two rooms built with brick walls, in opus mixtum , have been discovered. One of these has a floor in opus spicatum or herringbone pattern. Inside the rooms three amphora burials have been excavated, dating to the 5th and 6th century AD. They are an indication of the disuse of the ancient building, a process which starts in the late 3rd century AD.

Thick organic soils on top of the ancient structures confirm other sources that indicate that the area had been given over to agriculture in later phases.



R. Sebastiani, G.J. Burgers(Scientific direction);
S. della Ricca, V. De Leonardis, R.A. Kok-Merlino, M. Merlino, F. Tella (Field directors);
C. Tetteroo (Field assistant);
S. Della Giustina (Graphics);
A. Contino, L. D’Alessandro (Pottery analysis & laboratory);
E. Bukowiecki (Architectural analysis).
B. Kaiser (Supervising Architect)
B. Brouwenstijn (3D reconstruction)




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