Archaeologists map Roman city using ‘quad bike and radar’

New scanning system reveals ‘elaborate’ details of ancient settlement

Porta di Giove (Falerii Novi)
(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Archaeologists have mapped a complete Roman city using ground-penetrating radar and without any digging.

The new scanning system revealed highly detailed images of a bath house, theatre, shops and several temples in Falerii Novi, which stood 30 miles north of Rome from 241BC until around AD700, The Guardian says.

The ground penetrating radar (GPR) also revealed the walled city’s network of plumbing, including water-pipe layouts.

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The archaeologists, from the universities of Cambridge and Ghent, in Belgium, “were even able to see how the town evolved”, by imaging the site at different depths, reports CNN.

GPR works by bouncing radio waves off objects, and using the “echo” to build up a picture of what lies beneath the ground, reports Sky News.

“Archaeologists believe it could revolutionise our understanding of ancient settlements, making it possible to explore larger areas in higher resolution, including those that cannot be excavated because they are trapped under modern structure,” the broadcaster says.

Using a quad bike, the researchers towed their GPR instruments over the area where Falerii Novi was believed to be buried while taking readings every 5ins (12.5cm).

They describe their findings in full in a newly published paper in the journal Antiquity.

“The astonishing level of detail which we have achieved at Falerii Novi, and the surprising features that has revealed, suggest that this type of survey could transform the way archaeologists investigate urban sites, as total entities,” said study co-author Martin Millett, a professor of classical archaeology at Cambridge.

“We still have so much to learn about Roman urban life and this technology should open up unprecedented opportunities for decades to come,” he added.

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