The Italian Almanac

Roman sarcophagus

Italian News - December 7

Italian archaeologists have found a remarkable trove of five untouched Roman sarcophagi in a burial vault outside Rome. "It's really rare to find so many sarcophagi that have never been profaned or even opened - as can be seen by the intact lead clasps on their edges," said the head of the dig, Stefano Musco.

The sarcophagi dated from the II century AD and probably contained the remains of the wealthy residents of a villa that once stood in the area - now a building site on Rome's north-eastern outskirts. All the sarcophagi are marble and all decorated, leading archaeologists to suppose they could have been made for a prominent aristocratic family. One of them is much smaller than the others and believed to contain the remains of a small child.

Rome anthropologist Paola Catalano said she hoped the skeletons and funerary objects would provide information on burial rites and the lifestyles and social position of the dead, "even though the acidity of the terrain and rainwater has already corroded the marble." The sarcophagi will be moved to the Museo Nazionale Romano at Diocletian's Baths, while the burial site will be preserved as a green area.