Palestrina, Lazio

Villa d’Adriano and Ville Fiorentini, Palestrina
November 2003

In November 2003, geophysical prospection in the form of magnetometry survey was conducted at two sites in Palestrina, ancient Praeneste, which lies 38km west of Rome, Italy. These surveys were commissioned by Dott. Sandra Gatti of the Soprintendenza Archaeologica del Lazio and undertaken by the British School at Rome and Dr. Elizabeth Fentress.

Villa d’Adriano

The aim of the first survey was to locate and map any sub-surface archaeological features in the east of the Villa d’Adriano cemetery complex where several structures of Roman date are still clearly visible. The survey managed to locate features potentially associated with the villa complex on account of their orientation. Their ‘room-like’ configuration indicating a program of chambers arranged around a central or garden court. A circular feature was also discovered which may have been a central feature for the architectural arrangement, although local sources do mention the presence of an underground aquifer on site, making the field a prime location for a well or fountain structure. If this was the case, nearby linear anomalies could indicate the existence of terracotta drains or pipes. If not, then these may be pathways. An irregular feature is also identifiable on the results to the north, possibly a niche-like structure associated with a Roman garden court.

Ville Fiorentini

The aim of the second survey was to locate and map any sub-surface archaeological features already discernable from aerial photography. Despite the obfuscation from ploughing, ‘room-like’ configurations were identified. These may have been arranged around a central feature or space, with some of the larger readings interpreted as possible paved streets. Two magnetically strong areas may represent the presence of kilns or hearths in the area also, with two linear negative features potentially reflecting the buried roadway or path carved into the volcanic soil.