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Rare Roman Artifacts Unearthed Beneath an Ancient Well

Rare Roman Artifacts Unearthed Beneath an Ancient Well

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Located near the Temple of Hercules and in a sacred area of the site, archaeologists excavating a well in the ancient city of Ostia Antica, about 15 miles southwest of Rome, were surprised to find more than just water. According to Italy’s Ministry of Culture, they had uncovered dozens of rare artifacts at the bottom of the 10-foot-deep well. 

Dating to the first and second centuries AD, the well-preserved artifacts, were buried in oxygen-poor mud, protecting them from the elements and the trove is allowing researchers to better understand the imperial life and cult rituals of its inhabitants and the nearby regions. 

Director of Museums at Italy’s Ministry of Culture, Massimo Osanna said in a statement: 

“Restoration work has proven to be a unique opportunity to study and deepen knowledge of the functions and activities that took place in the sanctuary.” 

An Object of Mystery 

Out of all the artifacts pulled from the well, the most puzzling is of a mysterious wooden funnel or chalice-like object with an unknown purpose. Although, it is suspected that it may have been used as a musical instrument such as a pipe. 

Researchers also discovered pieces of glass and marble, fragments of pottery and even a set of interlocking pieces of wood. Also found in the well are burnt bones and ceramics, suggesting animal sacrifices. 


The funnel-shaped object of unknown purpose discovered in the well.

The funnel-shaped object of unknown purpose discovered in the well. (Courtesy of Italy’s Ministry of Culture) 

The director of the archaeological park, Alessandro D’Alessio tells the Art Newspaper’s James Imam: 

“These finds are a direct testament of the ritual activity that took place at the sanctuary… We might have imagined this happened, but previously we had no evidence.” 

A City of Legendary Beginnings 

Said to have been founded in the seventh century BC by the legendary fourth king of Rome, Ancus Marcius, Ostia’s oldest archaeological evidence date the site to no earlier than the fourth century BC, which later served as a vital port for the Roman Empire. The population reached to some 50,000 inhabitants at its peak in the second century AD. 

The Frigidarium of the Baths of the Forum

The Frigidarium of the Baths of the Forum. (Jastrow / CC BY-SA 2.5) 

Visitors will soon be able to visit the park’s sacred area but in the meantime, the restoration work continues. And the discovered artifacts will eventually find their way to the nearby Ostiense Museum where they will likely be put on display. 

Top image: An assortment of artifacts 1,800-year-old discovered in the well. Source: Courtesy of Italy’s Ministry of Culture 

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Petros Koutoupis

Petros Koutoupis is an author and an independent historical researcher, focusing predominantly on the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age periods of the Eastern Mediterranean and general Near East. Fluent in modern Greek, Petros has additional knowledge in languages that... Read More

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