London, April 4 : Archaeologists have said that tourists visiting Rome are taking away mementoes from important historical structures, thus stripping the city of its ancient past.
According to a report in the Telegraph, a prominent example is Trajan's Forum, which is in the heart of the city's classical ruins.
The forum was built in AD 112, followed by Trajan's Column in the following year. The whole area is currently undergoing reconstruction, including the insertion of a raised walkway for tourists.
Reports indicate that the site has been stripped of all the fragments of statues and shards of amphorae that adorned it until recently.
To highlight the problem, a reporter from a city newspaper carried away large boxes full of ancient artefacts during the daytime without being challenged.
"Everything has been taken from Trajan's Forum. The close-circuit television cameras are pointless, and the gates are practically non-existent. Even a child could climb over them," said an archaeologist working at the site.
"The treasures of ancient Rome are very vulnerable, but there are lots of gaps in the security system of one of the most important archaeological areas in the world," he added, while also saying that he had often seen people in restricted areas, collecting keepsakes.
A city newspaper has blamed the 20 million tourists who pass through the city each year for the looting. "Who knows how many of these small fragments now adorn living rooms all over the world?" it said.
According to Eugenio La Rocca, the head of Rome's cultural heritage authority, "You have to bear in mind that we cannot cover every angle, especially since restoration work is going on. We cannot put bunkers of guards everywhere. If we did, the whole of Rome would be a giant bunker."
"However, the area is closed off and the television monitoring system is connected to a cabin staffed by guards. It is also connected to the police," he added.