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On Feb. 3, the Vatican opened the Roman Necropolis of the Via Triumphalis to the public for the first time. The ancient burial ground dates back to the first century B.C. when it was the place of final rest for local Romans.
The 10,000-square-foot site was originally uncovered during the 1950s during construction of a new parking garage underneath the Vatican. As with many of these excavations, it took many years to raise money to delve into the site, a process that is ongoing. The Canada Chapter of the Patrons of the Arts funded this project.
In 2006, Giandomenico Spinola, head of the Vatican Museums’ classical antiquities department, told the BBC “We found a little Pompeii of funeral life, ” as the burial chambers revealed tombs of everyone from a theater set designer to a letter carrier to a circus horse trainer.
“We have had the mausoleums of Hadrian and Augustus. But in Rome we are short of these middle- and lower-class burial places,” he added.
According to Zenit.org, “During the works, the central area of the Necropolis was investigated and an ancient path excavated, uniting the two previously divided sectors, and bringing to light a zone intended for cremations (ustrino), which is rarely conserved in a complex of this type. It is characterized by two superimposed layers of baked clay and earth deposits, with fragments of charcoal and burnt pine cones, used to light the pyre. The grave goods accompanying the deceased are conserved in two recently installed display cabinets, while a third illustrates the most recent excavations.”
If you would like to visit the necropolis, you can take a guided tour available through the Vatican Museums. You must reserve ahead. A guided tour of the necropolis alone is 10€ or you can purchase a combined necropolis tour and entrance to the Vatican Museums and Vatican Gardens.
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