21 April 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

Particle physics and archeology collaboration uncovers secret Hellenistic underground chamber in Naples

The ruins of the ancient necropolis of Neapolis, built by the Greeks between the end of the fourth and the beginning of the third century BC, are located about 10 meters beneath modern-day Naples.

Unfortunately, the Sanità district has a high population density and urban characteristics, making systematic excavations extremely difficult. Nonetheless, the archaeological research that led to the discovery of the Ipogei dei Togati and the Ipogei dei Melograni led researchers to make assumptions about the presence of other unknown monuments.

The use of cosmic rays and lasers allowed researchers to examine the underground without the need for any physical excavation.

The collaboration between particle physics and archaeology, two seemingly unrelated fields, produced a technique known as muography, which is particularly useful in urban settings where it is impractical to use active study techniques due to its non-invasive nature.

(a) Fragments of Greek burial chambers and (b) Ipogeo dei Melograni decorated with fruits frescoes along the walls (c) Togati - fragment of a high relief with a funeral farewell scene (d) chamber 8 in Fig. 11 with remains of frescoes on the North wall described by Neapolitan archaeologist Michele Ruggiero in 1888.
(a) Fragments of Greek burial chambers and (b) Ipogeo dei Melograni decorated with fruits frescoes along the walls (c) Togati – fragment of a high relief with a funeral farewell scene (d) chamber 8 in Fig. 11 with remains of frescoes on the North wall described by Neapolitan archaeologist Michele Ruggiero in 1888.

In collaboration with the University of Nagoya (Japan), a group of researchers from the University of Naples Federico II and the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN) used muography to detect the presence of possible cavities in the underground of Naples‘ Sanità district. One of the most significant structures discovered is a hidden Hellenistic chamber that most likely houses a burial.

Muography is a technique that makes use of muons, which are high-energy charged particles produced by cosmic rays in the upper layers of the atmosphere. These muons were installed 18 meters below the Sanità district’s current street level to measure muon flux for about a month.

Researchers used a special technology called “nuclear emulsion” to record the tracks of these muons. This technology uses highly sensitive photographic film to capture and visualize the paths of these particles. As a result, the researchers were able to generate a radiographic image of the upper layers and observe both known and unknown structures.

Remains of frescoes on the North wall found in an underground Greek tomb discovered in Italy using the 21st-century technique of muography. Credit: Nature / CC BY 4.0
Remains of frescoes on the North wall found in an underground Greek tomb discovered in Italy using the 21st-century technique of muography. Photo: Nature / CC BY 4.0

The muography revealed an excess of muons in the data, which could only be explained by the presence of a new burial chamber. The study explained that the chamber’s area measures roughly 6.5 by 11.5 feet and has a rectangular shape, indicating that it is human-made rather than natural.

Based on the depth of the chamber, the researchers believe it was part of an ancient Greek necropolis dating from the sixth to third centuries B.C. This hypogeum was most likely the tomb of a wealthy individual.

The researchers suspect this chamber is similar to others discovered in the late 1800s, such as the Hypogeum of the Toga-Wearers and the Hypogeum of the Pomegranates.

Cover Photo: Foreground top view of the studied site as seen with Google Maps. Nature / CC BY 4.0

Nature

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-32626-0

Related Articles

The Rock Tombs Found by Chance in the Al-Hamidiyah Necropolis

12 May 2021

12 May 2021

A series of rock tombs carved into the slope of a mountain have been discovered in the Al-Hamidiyah necropolis on...

Newly Discovered Two Fortress Settlements and a New Type of Open-Air Temple in Eastern Anatolia Region of Türkiye

26 March 2024

26 March 2024

Two fortress settlements and two new open-air temples were discovered during a survey in Tunceli province in the Eastern Anatolia...

“Unprecedented” Phoenician necropolis found in southern Spain

28 April 2022

28 April 2022

A 4th or 5th-century B.C Phoenician necropolis has been found at Osuna in Southern Spain. A well-preserved underground limestone vault...

Tombs of Queens of Commagene Detected

23 September 2021

23 September 2021

The graves built by Commagene King Mithritades II (36-21 BC) for his mother Isias, his sister Antiokhis, and Antiochis’s daughter...

A 7,500-year-old settlement has been discovered in Turkey’s Domuztepe Mound

11 September 2021

11 September 2021

During the most recent excavations at Domuztepe Mound in the Türkoğlu district of southern Turkey’s Kahramanmaraş province, a settlement and...

Remarkable discovery of Iron Age and Roman treasures found near a boggy area on Anglesey

29 February 2024

29 February 2024

Metal detectorist Ian Porter unearthed sixteen historical artifacts in a boggy field on Anglesey. Among the items found were Iron...

Iran wants UNESCO recognition for 56 of its historic caravansaries

10 October 2021

10 October 2021

Iran wants 56 Caravanserais from various periods, from the Sassanids (224 CE-651) to the Qajar period (1789-1925), to be included...

“Oracle Bone Inscriptions”, the world’s oldest writing system that has not disappeared in history

5 June 2023

5 June 2023

“Jiaguwen,” or the oracle bone inscriptions, are thought to be the earliest fully-developed characters as well as the source of...

Archaeologists uncover Europe’s oldest lakeside stilt village behind a fortress of defensive spikes

11 August 2023

11 August 2023

Under the turquoise waters of Lake Ohrid, the “Pearl of the Balkans” Scientists have uncovered what may be one of...

1900 years old a rare mosaic was discovered in Durrës, Albania

6 November 2023

6 November 2023 1

In the port city of Durrës, on the Adriatic Sea in western Albania, a unique mosaic dating back 1900 years...

A pre-Hispanic ceremonial center with unknown characteristics was discovered in the Andes

15 April 2023

15 April 2023

While investigating at Waskiri, near the Lauca River and the Bolivian-Chilean border, archaeologists found an impressive circular construction on a...

Paleontologists Unearth Dozens of Giant Dinosaur Eggs in Fossilized Nest in Spain

15 November 2021

15 November 2021

Spain was the scene of a new paleontological discovery. Paleontologists extracted 30 Titanosaurus dinosaur eggs from a two-ton rock in...

Unique Heart-Shaped Jesuit Ring from 1700s at Fort St Joseph, Michigan

18 September 2022

18 September 2022

An archeology student from the Fort St. Joseph Archeology project at Western Michigan University has uncovered a unique heart-shaped Jesuit...

4,000-year-old cylinder seal found in Blaundos excavations

29 September 2022

29 September 2022

A 4,000-year-old cylinder seal was found during the excavations of the ancient city of Blaundus (or Blaundos, as it is...

2,300-year-old Buddhist temple discovered in Pakistan

23 December 2021

23 December 2021

Remains of a 2300 years old Buddhist Temple have been discovered in Northwest Pakistan by a joint team of Pakistani...