Basin structures with oyster shells, traces of mosaics and frescoes: Underwater archaeologists have discovered in Lake Venice that may be the remains of a Roman villa with aquaculture facilities. The findings match historical records of oyster farming in antiquity, experts say.
Today’s Venice had an ancestor in Roman times: northwest of the airport lie the remains of the former port city of Altinum, which was at its heyday in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. For some time now, archaeologists from the University of Padua and the University of Venice have been conducting investigations into the former urban area and into the surrounding lake landscape. Last year, they came across stones and piles in the waters of the lake near Lio Piccolo in the municipality of Cavallino-Treporti. Now they are reporting on the results of a second underwater archaeological research campaign at the site.
As reported by the University of Venice, divers in Lio Piccolo found traces of a seemingly elegantly designed complex: next to the remains of building structures, they found fragments of mosaics and frescoes. Radiocarbon dating indicates that the site dates back to the first and second centuries AD. The most interesting find is the remains of a rectangular basin, at the bottom of which archaeologists discovered well-preserved oyster shells.
Villa with aquaculture facility
As the team reports, indications of hydraulic structural elements also indicate that it was an aquaculture facility. The oysters appear to have been either farmed here or stored alive for later consumption. Against the background of historical records, this also seems plausible, as Carlo Beltram of the University of Venice explains: “It is known that in the Roman world, oysters were highly valued and also bred, especially in Gaul and the Italian peninsula,” explains it. Carlo Beltram of the University of Venice. For example, Cicero talks about oysters that were bred by the ancient merchant Sergius Orata in the Naples region.
According to Beltrame, ancient authors also mentioned oysters from the northern Adriatic. Although Altinum is not directly mentioned, oyster shells were found there during various excavations in the Roman city. And so the discoveries at Lio Piccolo fit into this. “It was a place that must have been close to the coast in Roman times, so it had perfect conditions for oysters to grow,” Beltram says.
Based on the findings, experts now suspect the existence of a sea villa at Lio Piccolo in the Roman Empire, which also had facilities to bring fresh seafood to the table.
source: Ca’ Foscari University of Venice
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