An eight-foot-deep sinkhole opened up on a street in front of the Pantheon in Rome, revealing several ancient paving stones dating as far back as 27BC.
The sinkhole is 10 feet long and opened unexpectedly on an otherwise quiet Sunday afternoon on a cobblestoned street in the Piazza della Rotunda, near the Pantheon’s front steps.
The area had been closed to the public at the time so no one was injured, but during tourist season the event could have caused much more damage.
The paving stones below the surface appear to have been used in the streets around the Pantheon when it was first built, and which were subsequently paved over after a series of reconstruction projects in the first century AD.
According to a report in the Smithsonian, city officials had been aware the ancient paving stones were present below the surface but decided against any larger excavation project, fearing it would be disruptive.
The paving stones were unusually well preserved because they were mostly surrounded by pozzolan, a type of dirt with significant amounts of silicon dioxide that absorbs excess moisture and can help prevent rot.
The paving stones themselves were made from travertine, a common building material in ancient Rome used in the Coliseum and many of the city’s triumphal arches, which was easily sourced from quarries outside the city.
Sinkholes have been a common phenomenon in Rome, with over 100 openings recorded in 2019, and 175 in 2018.
They’re caused by the destabilizing combination of the region’s sandy soil and layers of old ruins that much of the modern city was built atop, which weaken the ground above.
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Source: Daily Mail