#17.6: Hole

Ok now, still standing in front of the tin roof over the Lacus Curtius look 90° to the right (east) and you can see another Gladiator tunnel opening (in line with the one you have already seen 90° to your left). Now look 45° to the right (northeast). See the fenced-in big Hole in the center of the Forum Square? It's just to the left of the center of this photo. And behind that are some column fragments and a rectangular stone pedestal base. In 1902 the archaeologist Boni was excavating the Gladiator tunnels beneath the Forum when he found a section of the main tunnel and one branch off of it blocked by concrete. The next year (1903-4) he dug this hole to excavate this underground oddity.

This 1.5 m Hole was once capped with large travertine blocks which were level with or slightly above the Forum pavement, making a massive base for something with the concrete foundation below for support. I don't know how they knew it was once capped with large travertine blocks. Perhaps the lowest level of blocks was not removed? I get the impression that this Hole had been filled-in and paved-over at a later date (when whatever was here was removed along with the large travertine blocks below ground level) with the same type paving stones that make up the Forum Square. This excavation exposed a concrete base 1.5 m below the present pavement level that is 11.80 m long x 5.9 wide and over 5 m deep (about 400 cubic meters of concrete). This Hole also has walls of Opus Caementicium.

But the mystery only deepened when they hit this concrete base because on top of this large concrete base were three travertine blocks set into the concrete. These blocks have a square hole in the center (0.44 x 0.44 m and 0.15 m deep). Traces of bronze and carbon were found in these square holes. At the time Boni thought these were support holes for the Equus Domitiani (91 AD), a colossal bronze Equestrian Statue of Domitian.

Coins from that period show this statue as a striding horse with the right front foot resting on a symbolic head of the Rhine, this would account for only three leg supports. Although nearby, this was not that statue's location. Also Statius mentions this statue's massive base, so there would be no need or logical reason to support the horse's legs through the base, then through 1.5 m of stone blocks and into a concrete base. Plus a recent discovery puts this concrete base during Augustus' reign (31 BC-14 AD).

Also suggested is that these were support holes for poles displaying trophies or something else that poles could do. It would seem to be an awful lot of overkill (400 cubic m of concrete and 1.5 m of large stone blocks) just to put up three large wooden poles?

It's likely that the 1.5 m of travertine blocks were a foundation for a building (temple? government building?, shrine?, etc)? And the builders were perhaps concerned about the structural weakness that the abandoned tunnels might cause, so they were filled-in with concrete?

I'm going with: Augustus puts a large heavy building (temple, government, shrine, etc) at that location which was gone by Domitian's reign (81-96 AD) because it's very possible the huge Equestrian Statue of Domitian (next site) encroached upon this area. All Domitian's statues were destroyed (damnito memoriae) especially this one, so now the area is back level.

It's believed that Trajan (98-117 AD) later built a building at this location also. There is also evidence for other large rectangular bases in this area either for equestrian statues or arches but two were for buildings.

Back to the three hollow travertine blocks with traces of bronze and carbon found within them. Because of the fourth hollow block mentioned below, I have to think those three hollow blocks might have had some ritual significance? Perhaps Pozzi Ritulai? Priests do a sacrifice at this building looking for omens or blessings at the beginning of construction? Or perhaps to appease whatever they had disturbed (see below). Burned offerings might leave traces of carbon? Or perhaps they were just something structural. Might the traces of bronze have been caused by the tools used to make these blocks?

Now at the eastern end of this concrete base at a slightly lower level there is another fourth hollow travertine block set into the concrete but this one had a travertine lid in place. Inside this travertine stone box were found small perfectly preserved clay jars/vases/pottery with sand, stone, pitch, fragments of tortoise shell and in one a small piece of quartz with a little of gold attached. These jars date to 675-650 BC. It is believed that when the workers were digging out this large hollow for pouring the concrete base they found these jars which were believed to be tomb funerary offerings. And after the job was complete they religiously reburied these jars in this travertine vault.

Also the official Roman Forum guidebook mentions the ancient scholar Varro who believed *this*? was the ancient cult area established by the second King Numa Pompilius (715 BC) where sacred objects belonging to him were buried. Which would mean that it was excavated during Augustus' early reign because Varro died in 27 BC. Which seems to me that they found some common funerary objects which the Forum has a lot of and automatically connect them to a King because they are ancient and they must be his? Some archaeologists/historians do this today because that is what they *want* to find also for public relations, status and funding :-) .

Also this Hole is wrongly identified as the *Vestal Virgin's* 'Doliola' (place of jars). Their Doliola was where the Vestals buried the Palladium and sacred relics in terra-cotta jars when fleeing the Gallic invasion of Rome. But that site is recorded by ancient writers to be south of the Roman Forum (Forum Boarium area). This site can be called a Doliola because of the jars in the fourth travertine hollow but not *the* Doliola of the Vestal Virgins.

Now during this 1903/4 excavation of this site the bodies of a man and woman from the seventh Century BC were found, about 3 or 5 m from the NE corner of the Hole. Their burial contained no funerary equipment like at many other burial sites in the Forum during that time period. It was only them and it's concluded that they were both an expiatory human sacrifice. Their remains are now in the Roman Forum Museum (Antiquarium Forense) Room 3, the room with the large lead container in the center. I recall that both have a finger-size hole in their head which was possibly how they were executed? I wonder, human sacrifice to request something or appease the Gods is very possible but I wonder if it also might have been a criminal execution for committing a capital crime (murder, treason, heresy, forbidden love {adultery, incest, etc} )? Also I mentioned this before, between this Hole and the Column Bases a (radar?) sounding was done. And 6 m below an image of a man, woman and child's skeletons were seen, they were apparently bound together and thrown into this (pre-drained) marsh and drowned. They are also believed to be a human sacrifice.

Next: #17.7: Equestrian Statue of Domitian
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