12 June 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

A 2,000-year-old monumental Roman villa Found Under a Seaside May Be Pliny the Elder’s house

Researchers have discovered the remnants of a massive Roman villa thought to have ties to Pliny the Elder while working on an urban renewal project in Bacoli, close to the northwest end of the Bay of Naples.

2,000 years ago, the villa would have sat on a cliffside, commanding 360° views of the Gulf of Naples and the islands of Ischia and Procida in the background.

The monumental villa, estimated to have been built in the first century, was discovered by the researchers while Bacoli’s urban renewal projects were underway, the Superintendency of Archeology, Fine Arts, and Landscape for the Naples Metropolitan Area (SABAP) announced in a press release.

The site of the villa lies in the vicinity of Punta Sarparella on the coast of Cape Miseno—a headland that marks the northwestern limit of the Gulf of Naples. The Cape of Miseno was also home to an ancient settlement called Misenum, which was the site of a significant Roman port.

The ancient city of Misenum served as the primary port for the Classis Misenensis, the senior fleet of the imperial Roman navy. Pliny the Elder, the renowned author of Naturalis Historia, was the praefect in charge of the naval fleet at the time of the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in CE 79.

Photo: Comune Di Bacoli
Photo: Comune Di Bacoli

Pliny played a tragic role in leading a rescue mission across the bay but succumbed to asphyxiation due to the noxious gases emitted by the Vesuvius volcano. An also author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, Pliny Sr. wrote the Naturalis Historia which became a publishing model for encyclopedias in our time.

The recent excavations at Bacoli have revealed a villa complex with about ten large rooms dating to different construction phases. The villa features opus reticulatum walls, a distinctive form of Roman brickwork using diamond-shaped bricks of tuff, known as cubilia.

Back in the first century, the mansion would have been located within the Roman port at Misenum, where for four centuries a fleet of 70 ships controlled the Tyrrhenian Sea, the security of which was key to holding the western flank of the Roman empire.

Remains of the villa in Miseno. Photo: Soprintendenza Archeologia

The villa descends to a small crumbling stone dock, now about four meters below sea level. This and other parts of the unearthed villa are now underwater due to the phenomenon known as “negative bradyseism,” which describes the gradual descent of the earth’s surface into the sea in areas prone to volcanic activity. (The area borders a moon-shaped “caldera” or extinct volcanic crater).

“It is likely that the majestic villa had a 360-degree view of the gulf of Naples for strategic military purposes,” Simona Formola, lead archaeologist at Naples’ art heritage, told CNN in an interview. “We think (the excavation of) deeper layers could reveal more rooms and even frescoes — potentially also precious findings.”

While the identification of the villa as Pliny the Elder’s residence remains speculative, pending extensive excavation and contextual enhancement projects, the perimeter of the rooms has been identified and fenced off.

Cover Photo: Comune Di Bacoli

Related Articles

Washi papers discovered inside a 675-year-old Buddhist statue in Japan

3 February 2024

3 February 2024

The carved head of an ancient Buddhist statue hidden in the Myooin temple in Fukuyama, Hiroshima, Japan, has revealed pages...

Viking Ship Burials Shrouded in Mystery on Danish Island

25 May 2021

25 May 2021

Archaeologists studying the origins and makeup of the Kalvestene burial field, a famed place in Scandinavian legend, have undertaken new...

Archaeologists unearth the Torah Ark of the Great Synagogue of Vilna, destroyed in Lithuania

30 August 2021

30 August 2021

In Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, in excavation exposed the Torah ark and bimah (raised prayer platform) of the Great...

Funerary urn depicting Maya corn god uncovered during Maya Train work

10 January 2024

10 January 2024

Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) conducting salvage work along section 7 of the Maya Train...

Medallion of Emperor Caracalla Minted in Pergamon Found in Roman Tombs in Bulgaria

13 February 2024

13 February 2024

One of the valuable discoveries from the Roman tombs discovered near the village of Nova Varbovka in Strazhitsa municipality in...

A rare 2,500-year-old marble disc, designed to protect ancient ships and ward off the evil eye discovered near Palmachim Beach

5 August 2023

5 August 2023

A rare 2,500-year-old marble disc designed to protect ancient ships and ward off the evil eye was discovered by a...

An 1800-year-old inscription was discovered in Hadrianaupolis indicating the existence of the Asclepius cult

5 September 2022

5 September 2022

An inscription pointing to the existence of the cult of Asclepius was found in the ancient city of Hadrianaupolis, which...

Remains of painkillers were found in 4500-year-old vessels during excavations at Küllüoba Höyük in Turkey

20 September 2022

20 September 2022

In the excavations of the Early Bronze Age Küllüoba Höyük (Kulluoba Mound) in Eskişehir, where the first urbanization structure of...

Excavations at Aizanoi in Western Turkey to Resume

29 March 2021

29 March 2021

The ancient city of Aizanoi is located in the town of Çavdarhisar, 57 km from the center of Kütahya (Turkey’s...

Evidence of textile manufacture dating back millennia was found in an area famous for the Witney Blanket

12 June 2023

12 June 2023

Archaeological excavations at the site of Oxfordshire County Council’s project to build the A40 Science Transit Park and Ride at...

Researchers Found Evidence in Ethiopia of a Human Population that Survived the Eruption of the Toba Supervolcano 74,000 Years Ago

22 March 2024

22 March 2024

Researchers working in the Horn of Africa, also known as the Somali Peninsula have uncovered evidence showing how Middle Stone...

Four-face ivory dice found at Keezhadi excavation site in India

18 February 2022

18 February 2022

The Tamil Nadu Archaeological department along with the Archaeological Survey of India has unearthed rectangular ivory dice,  in the excavation...

“Cardiff’s earliest house” unearthed during an archaeological dig may shed light on the city’s earliest inhabitants

15 July 2022

15 July 2022

Archaeological excavation in a city park in Cardiff, the capital of Wales, has uncovered what is believed to be the...

4,500-year-old rare Canaanite goddess sculpture found by a farmer in Gaza Strip

25 April 2022

25 April 2022

A farmer in the city of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, found a rare 4,500-year-old stone sculpture while...

Puzzling rings may be finger loops from prehistoric weapon systems

24 May 2023

24 May 2023

When many researchers looked at an astonishing group of artifacts discovered at French archaeological sites, they presumed they were ornaments...