Washington, July 31 (ANI): In a new study, the outline of an ancient Roman city buried beneath cropland near Venice, Italy, has been mapped in detail for the first time with the aid of aerial photography.
Until now the ancient city of Altinum, which dates back at least to the first century BC, was known only from historical records and a few minor excavations.
According to a report in National Geographic News, the new map of the town's foundations reveals that it was a classic Roman city replete with city walls and gates, a network of streets and canals, homes, monuments such as an amphitheater and a basilica, and a harbor.
In its heyday, the city was fronted by what is now known as the Laguna Veneta, and a "brackish smell" likely filled the air, noted study co-author Paolo Mozzi, a geomorphologist at the University of Padua in Italy.
"You can expect a lot of coming and going, a lot of ships arriving through the lagoon from points in the Adriatic, (and) there were merchants running along the Via Annia, a road that crossed the city," Mozzi said.
The findings paint a picture of a sophisticated community with the know-how to thrive in a lagoon environment centuries before Venice and its famous canals emerged, the study authors conclude.
Today, the remains of Altinum lie under fields of maize and soy on the Italian mainland.
For their map, Mozzi and colleagues took advantage of drought conditions in 2007 to take photographs of the fields in visible and near-infrared light.
Plants growing on top of stone structures such as walls and building foundations suffer greater water stress than plants over canals filled in with sediment, Mozzi explained.
"If you look at it from the air, you see the geometry of these plants, which show underground the geometry of the structure," he said.
Modern-day Venice sits on islands in the Laguna Veneta, which is separated by barrier islands from the Adriatic Sea.
Although it's miles away from Altinum, the study authors consider the mainland city to have been an ancestor of Venice.
Scholars believe that Altinum's residents fled their home during barbarian invasions in the fifth to seventh centuries A.D. and colonized the northern lagoon islands.
Experts not affiliated with the research agreed that the new map of Altinum is a tremendous advance for understanding the little-known city.
For instance, the survey offers firm evidence that Altinum was a classic Roman port similar to the nearby ancient cities of Ravenna and Aquileia. (ANI)