Geoarchaeological Coring Survey of Rome’s Ancient River Valley

Andrea Brock

School of Classics

Environmental approaches are transforming conceptions of Rome’s origins. I direct a geoarchaeological coring survey of Rome’s river valley, investigating stratigraphic levels more than 15m below the modern surface. This unprecedented dataset and extensive cross-disciplinary collaboration has produced a new reconstruction of Rome’s pre-urban landscape. Additionally, coring has revealed that the river valley transformed dramatically alongside urban growth at the site in the mid-1st millennium BCE. Escalating floods and sedimentation compelled the ancient Romans to adapt their floodplain occupation both rapidly and progressively over many centuries. As one of the world’s longest records of urban flooding, Rome provides invaluable perspectives for modern ecological challenges.

This shows the drilling machinery as we worked in Rome’s Forum Boarium in 2019. We are producing a 15m deep sediment borehole (through the modern street level and down to the base of the archaeological sequence in the river valley). In the background is the Temple of Portunus (a temple to the god of ports, which was built in the historical period on the location of Rome’s prehistoric river harbour).

Photographer: Andrea Brock