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ARCHAEOLOGY

‘Archaeological enigma’ accidentally uncovered in Rome during routine works

Archaeologists have been left at a loss by the discovery of some mysterious ruins in Rome, which could be the remains of one of the city's earliest churches.

'Archaeological enigma' accidentally uncovered in Rome during routine works
The elaborately patterned floor has led to several theories. Photo: Soprintendenza Speciale Roma

The find was made at Ponte Milvio, a bridge along the River Tiber in the northern part of the city. And it came about completely by chance while electrical technicians, who were laying cables along the site, uncovered remains of buildings dating back to between the first and fourth century AD.

Rome's Archaeological Superintendency called the discovery “an archaeological enigma shrouded in mystery”.

Want more archaeology stories? Keep up to date with our dedicated archaeology section.

The mysterious site. Photo: Soprintendenza Speciale Roma

READ ALSO: Archaeologists just found a medieval horse's head at the Colosseum

Part of these remains look likely to have been used as a warehouse, but it's an older building on the higher level that has presented archaeologists with a mystery.

Coloured marbles sourced from north Africa were used in the building's floors and walls, suggesting that it served an important purpose either for a Roman noble family or for the local community.

And its location close to an early cemetery has led to a theory that it could also be an early religious site, possibly one of Rome's very first churches, although there were no signs of an altar or religious decoration.

The superintendency confirmed that it was looking into the hypotheses that the remains belonged to “a Roman villa or a Christian place of worship”.

It's not uncommon for workers to stumble across ancient ruins or remains during routine excavations, as was the case with this find. Work on the capital's Metro line C was repeatedly delayed by workers coming across centuries-old ruins, including Rome's oldest aqueduct, and an ancient Roman bath house and tombs were unearthed during works on a new church.

READ ALSO: McDonald's opens restaurant-museum over ancient Roman road

 

CULTURE

Why Friday the 13th isn’t an unlucky date in Italy

Unlucky for some, but not for Italians. Here's why today's date isn't a cause for concern in Italy - but Friday the 17th is.

Why Friday the 13th isn't an unlucky date in Italy

When Friday the 13th rolls around, many of us from English-speaking countries might reconsider any risky plans. And it’s not exactly a popular date for weddings in much of the western world.

But if you’re in Italy, you don’t need to worry about it.

There’s no shortage of strongly-held superstitions in Italian culture, particularly in the south. But the idea of Friday the 13th being an inauspicious date is not among them.

Though the ‘unlucky 13’ concept is not unknown in Italy – likely thanks to the influence of American film and TV – here the number is in fact usually seen as good luck, if anything.

The number 17, however, is viewed with suspicion and Friday the 17th instead is seen as the unlucky date to beware of.

Just as some Western airlines avoid including the 13th row on planes, you might find number 17 omitted on Italian planes, street numbering, hotel floors, and so on – so even if you’re not the superstitious type, it’s handy to be aware of.

The reason for this is thought to be because in Roman numerals the number 17 (XVII) is an anagram of the Latin word VIXI, meaning ‘I have lived’: the use of the past tense apparently suggests death, and therefore bad luck. It’s less clear what’s so inauspicious about Friday.

So don’t be surprised if, next time Friday 17th rolls around, you notice some Italian shops and offices closed per scaramanzia’.

But why then does 13 often have a positive connotation in Italy instead?

You may not be too surprised to learn that it’s because of football.

Ever heard of Totocalcio? It’s a football pools betting system in which players long tried to predict the results of 13 different matches.

There were triumphant calls of ho fatto tredici! – ‘I’ve done thirteen’ – among those who got them all right. The popular expression soon became used in other contexts to mean ‘I hit the jackpot’ or ‘that was a stroke of luck!’

From 2004, the number of games included in Totocalcio rose to 14, but you may still hear winners shout ‘ho fatto tredici’ regardless.

Other common Italian superstitions include touching iron (not wood) for good luck, not toasting with water, and never pouring wine with your left hand.

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