During an excavation in Malta, a team of researchers and six students from the University of South Florida made an extraordinary discovery – a remarkably well-preserved centuries-old house. Led by Professor Davide Tanasi, director of USF’s Institute for Digital Exploration (IDEx), the team worked on the Melite Civitas Romana Project, shedding light on life during the Roman rule in Malta, which was utilized for military staging and maritime trade.
The mansion, known as the Roman Domus, was nestled in the heart of the ancient city of Melite. It boasted elaborate decorations, including mosaic floors, wall frescoes, and marble embellishments. Dating back to the 1st century BCE to the 2nd century CE, the Domus likely served as the residence of a high-ranking individual closely associated with the imperial court.
During their summer of excavation, the team uncovered a previously unknown house adjacent to the Domus, surprising everyone with its unusually tall walls, standing nearly 10 feet high. This uncommon feature provided valuable insights into the urban layout of ancient Melite and the spatial arrangement, shedding light on human behavior and experiences in that era.
The researchers are now on a quest to learn more about the house’s owner and what life was like living near the grand Domus. They have already found intriguing clues among the artifacts, such as an exquisitely adorned interior with terracotta floor tiles and frescoed plasters, as well as a waste disposal system filled with pottery fragments, glass vessels, animal bones, and charcoal. Studying this garbage deposit could reveal significant information about the people who lived in the house.
Sarah Hassam, a USF ancient history graduate student, had an exciting moment during the excavation when she discovered an engraved fragment with the letters D-A-O-I, which could be a hint at someone’s name. Such finds add to the fascination of exploring the past.
Apart from the excavation, the IDEx played a crucial role in preserving cultural heritage using digital methods. Through techniques like digital photogrammetry and terrestrial laser scanning, they created 3D models and in-depth data of the site. The findings from the excavation are now displayed in the museum of the Roman Domus, contributing to the public’s understanding of Malta’s rich history.
Thanks to an agreement between Tanasi, IDEx, and Heritage Malta, funding will be pursued to further advance the 3D digitization of Maltese archaeological and cultural heritage.
With the permit for excavations extended until 2025, IDEx will continue its exploration of the newly discovered house in the next summer season, hoping to uncover more about its owner’s identity and life during the Roman era.
Source: University of South Florida