Airborne LiDAR Led To the Discovery of an Early Roman Fortification System

Airborne LiDAR provides one of the earliest examples of Roman military fortifications. Credit: PNAS

Airborne LiDAR provides one of the earliest examples of Roman military fortifications. Credit: PNAS

An interdisciplinary study by Federico Bernardini et.al., airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR), ground penetrating radar (GPR), and archaeological surveys of the archaeological landscape of the Trieste area (northeastern Italy), has led to the discovery of an early Roman fortification system, composed of a big central camp (San Rocco) flanked by two minor forts.

Airborne LiDAR provides one of the earliest examples of Roman military fortifications. They are the only ones identified in Italy so far. Their origin is most likely related to the first year of the second Roman war against the Histri in 178 B.C., reported by Livy, but the sites were in use, perhaps not continuously, at least until the mid first century B.C. The main identified San Rocco military camp is the best candidate for the site of the first Trieste.

The scientists analyzed the Bay of Muggia, the innermost part of the Gulf of Trieste, located near Italy’s northeastern border with Slovenia. This is one of the most protected natural harbors of the northern Adriatic coast, making it a good place to build a settlement.

LiDAR can provide unexpected results, even in relatively urbanized territories investigated for a long time. With LiDAR, team we discovered in a few months more prehistoric archaeological structures than those discovered during one century of work with conventional archaeological methods.

The scientists plan to do full-scale archaeological excavations at these sites. They detailed their findings online March 16 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Early Roman military fortifications and the origin of Trieste, Italy – Federico Bernardini et. al.

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