A winery recently discovered by archaeologists on the Via Appia Antica near Rome gives us fascinating new insights into the way people lived almost 2000 years ago. The authors of the study accompanying the discovery present in great detail the architectural and decorative form of the winery and illustrate how the annual harvest was organized.
The complex that has been uncovered dates from the mid-third century AD and sheds light on how the elite of the time - who were the only ones to use the complex - could blend useful functions with ostentatious luxury to emphasize their social and political status.
The discovery of the ancient Roman winery happened by chance when archaeologists from the Italian Ministry of Culture were trying to find one of the starting points for the arena that also belongs to the complex, as the British daily newspaper "The Guardian" summarizes.
The arena was already built by Emperor Commodus, who ruled from 177 to 192 AD. According to the authors of the study in the specialist magazine "Antiquity", the winery that was later created was built over one of the sought-after gates.
The uncovered complex has features typical of a Roman winery, namely a grape treading area, two presses, a vat for collecting and settling the grape must, and a canal system to bring it all together in a wine cellar-style storage area, the researchers said.
However, although these features are typical of Roman wineries in several Mediterranean regions, their specific decoration and specific layout for a production site seems almost unprecedented in the Roman and perhaps the entire ancient world.
The rectangular wine treading zones, for example, appear unusual. The "treads were usually covered with waterproof concrete," explains archaeologist Dr. Emlyn Dodd, Assistant Principal at the British School in Rome and an expert on ancient wine production. "But these were covered in red marble. Which isn't ideal, as marble gets incredibly slippery when wet. But it shows that whoever built this prioritized the extravagant nature of the winery over practical considerations," he adds.
Other special features also make this facility so unique, not least because of the opulent environment in which it was located. Located just beyond the city limits of Rome in ancient times, the winery was part of a landscape that was once orchards and farmland, dotted with monumental villas and tombs of the upper class of the time.
Travelers and those interested in archeology can also see the splendor and scope of the site for themselves: the excavation area, including many of the finds that have now been uncovered, is open to the public.
Quellen: "Antiquity", "Guardian"