Syrian Sanctuary, Rome

May – June 2006

Excavated structures on the Santuario Siriaco site.

The site known as the Santuario Siriaco (Syrian Sanctuary), is located on the Janiculum Hill within the Trastevere district in the South-West area of the city of Rome. First discovered in the early twentieth century, the excavated part of the sanctuary consists of a building complex that developed in three phases between the mid-first and the mid third century AD. Numerous ritual objects found in the building are interpreted as being evidence of an eastern inspired cult that gives the site its name.

A geophysical survey was carried out on the site between 31st May and the 2nd June 2006 and presented a rare opportunity to work within Rome itself. The work was conducted on behalf of Dr Fedora Fillipi (Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma), Dr Richard Miles (Trinity Hall, Cambridge), Dr Christophe Goddard (University of Rheims) and Dr Massimiliano Ghilardi (Istituto Nazionale di Studi Romani).

The survey was initiated before excavation work took place, with the aim of deducing the depth and nature of the material overlying archaeological remains that may have formed an extension of the sanctuary to the north of the exposed structures. Resistance tomography was chosen as the best geophysical technique with which to investigate this aspect of the sanctuary.

Wenner array resistance tomography in progress.

The results of the resistance tomography were relatively successful in locating some features of varying resistance that are associated with possible archaeological deposits to the north of the excavated area at Santuario Siriaco. The maximum depth reached using the resistance tomography was approximately 4m, which places the results well above the level of structural remains excavated to the south (approximately 6m below ground level). This limitation was mainly due to the restricted size of the survey area, which did not allow the Wenner array to be expanded sufficiently to reach a depth of 6m.

At the depth surveyed no evidence was present that immediately suggests the location of walls or clear remains of structures in the area, but the presence of high resistance material at a depth of around 2m below the modern ground surface suggested the existence of an area of building material situated below an overburden of soil. Elsewhere on the survey a potential modern intrusive excavation was detected that caused the deposition of material down to a depth of around 3m below the modern ground level.