8. Conclusions

Paolo Brocato and Nicola Terrenato

The work of understanding the site of S. Omobono is obviously still only at the beginning. Much remains to be done in terms of stratigraphic recording, artefact analysis and architectural reconstruction. It is, however, possible to offer some preliminary observations resulting from the work done so far. They relate to a wide variety of issues and especially touch upon problems of correlation and connection between the data collected over the decades of fieldwork at the site. All the previous excavations were primarily aimed at reaching the deep levels of the Archaic temple within small trenches. This produced an emphasis on the vertical components (sections, profiles) at the expense of the already visible later phases and of the general plans. The high water table made everything more difficult and made it necessary to interrupt the work often, thus preventing the continuous analysis required for a site of this complexity.

From our work so far, there are some elements that deserve to be mentioned even in a preliminary contribution such as this one. Some interesting observations have been made concerning the cella walls of the west temple and the two stylobates in front of it. In the cella, the presence of post-Classical spoliation pits and poorly documented trenches from the early years of excavation at the site prevented any substantive understanding of the phasing and structural relationships of the standing courses of the cella walls in relation to the surrounding sections of pavement and the few preserved portions of the opus signinum floor of the temple. Particularly puzzling is the fact that the floor of the cella, which would conventionally be dated relatively late in the Republican period on the basis of its construction technique, is on a significantly lower level than the foundation courses of the cella walls, generally attributed to the last Republican restoration of the temple complex (after the fire of 213 BCE). The cella walls and the stylobates have always been interpreted as belonging to one of the Republican phases (for instance they are dated to the late 3rd century BCE in Sommella 1968). However, a consideration of the floor levels in the cella as well as on the rest of the podium shows that there is no pavement that is high enough to be flush with the cella and the stylobates, which instead stick out. Moreover, the foundation trench of at least one of the stylobates cuts the Republican floor. Therefore, it would seem that the Imperial phase is the only one with which the tufo cella walls and the tufo stylobates are compatible. While further work is needed before reaching a final conclusion on this, it should be noted that this would involve a significant change in the interpretation of later phases of the site.

Another important issue, going back to the Republican period, is the so-called Monteverde/Aniene floor, which is generally interpreted as a major reorganisation of the area dating to the mid-Republic (e.g. Coarelli 1988). A thorough cleaning of the area has now revealed that there are actually two floors at the same level. One only extends to the northern half of the podium, while the other half is made of a different material, with different block sizes, alignment and finishing. As a consideration of the drainage channels under the floors also suggests, there must be two separate mid-Republican phases represented, which will need to be more extensively studied. Only an analytical stratigraphic analysis, especially of the associated preparation layers, will produce an archaeological date for these features, which in the past have tended to be attributed to historical events simply on the basis of epigraphic and literary evidence.

Finally, when it comes to the earliest phase of the podium, generally associated with the cappellaccio cella and floor, a careful re-examination of the exposed sections at the site shows a greater complexity than previously maintained (e.g. Coarelli 1988). Indeed, in the southern half of the podium it can be observed at various locations that there are several courses of ashlar blocks directly underneath the floor level. This indicates that what was previously interpreted as a simple floor is actually the top of a massive structure that has never been documented before. In the northern half, on the other hand, under the so-called Monteverde floor there is no trace of a similar surface of cappellaccio slabs. It is hard to know at the moment if this was robbed out, but further investigations should resolve the issue. It seems likely, in any case, that when the podium was first created, its front and back halves were architecturally very different.

The above represents just a sample of the many open questions raised following our work at the site and in the archive. In the next few years further research is likely to produce a comprehensive phasing and architectural sequencing of the whole complex, from the Archaic period to the Imperial one. The ongoing fieldwork, which in 2010 and 2011 has concentrated in the area of the western temple, is producing a quantity of new data. Stratigraphically stringent observations are indispensable also to verify and cross-check the excavation records at the site from the last 80 years. A full publication of the S. Omobono site collating the new data with the scattered older materials will undoubtedly mark an important step in the study of Early Rome.


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