Construction workers cleaning and repairing a 100-year-old sewer in Rome unearthed a life-size marble sculpture of a man dressed as the mythical figure of Hercules, identifiable by his lion skin headdress.
“I doubt anyone was expecting a find like this under these circumstances,” Jane Draycott, an archaeologist at the University of Glasgow who was not involved in the excavation, told the Miami Herald. “A nice surprise amongst the sewage!”
The find was made along Rome’s famed Appian Way, a historic road now buried underneath the city’s Scott Park. Construction workers were on site to address a collapse in an old pipeline, which had led to dangerous sinkholes appearing in the park. Work to restore the sewers before replanting trees in that area of the park had been ongoing for months when workers stumbled upon the impressive sculpture on January 25, the Parco Archeologico dell’Appia Antica announced on Facebook.
An initial cleaning and study of the statue is being led by 27-year-old archaeologist Federica Acierno in temporary facilities at the site. Both legs of the figure are broken, but excavation also uncovered the base of the statue with its feet.
The sculpture appears to have been intentionally buried in the sewer pipe a century ago, some 65 feet below what is now street level. Because the sculpture was not found at its original site, the surrounding soil cannot be used to help date the work. Instead, the best clues to help determine its age lie in its physical appearance.
Experts at the archaeological park have developed a theory that the statue may be a depiction of the Emperor Gaius Messius Quintus Traianus Decius, or Decio Traiano, based on the work’s wrinkled face and its likeness to known coins featuring the visage of the ruler, who was in power from 249 to 251.
News of the find was reported by the Corriere della Sera, and in English by Wanted in Rome and the Evening Standard.
The Parco Archeologico dell’Appia Antica hopes to soon have the new Hercules statue on display, and is considering adding it to the current exhibition “Patrimonium Appiae: Depositi emersi.” On view through June 30 at the park’s Casale di Santa Maria Nova, it features recent archaeological discoveries from the Appian Way.
See more photos of the statue below.
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