La Stanza Gialla

In anticipation of the works to modernize via Marmorata and its tramway, the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma carried out a stratigraphic investigation of the site in August to November 2008 and January to May 2009, exploring the southern and the northern sector respectively. Because of the needs of the conteporary city and its inhabitants, archaeologists had to make best use of the little time available by executing constricted sondages in key areas.

The investigation resulted in the discovery of notable remains dating to an extended period, between the 1st century BC and the High Middle Ages, including a commercial building complex datable to Trajanic times (2nd century AD). The structures found on more superficial layers attest that the area maintained commercial functions throughout the Late Empire.

Provisions – mostly wheat, grain, and olive oil – were stored in amphoras or dolia, which have been found in large numbers, both entire and in fragments, during the excavation. The same types of terracotta containers, coming from the cargoes that were unloaded here in antiquity, constitute the filling of Mons Testaceus (modern Testaccio) – an artificial hill created by gradual accumulation of discarded pottery fragments (testae in Latin).

A whole dolium (a large, round container), dating to the 3rd century AD, was found standing at approximately 2 m below street level. It was restored in antiquity by means of two metal clamps. On its lip is incised the number 157 in Latin numerals (CLVII). In a later period, the dolium ceased to be a food container and was eventually filled with amphora fragments.

During the 5th and 6th centuries, in spite of the drastic reduction in comercial activity, the area still remained a highly frequented part of the city in virtue of its location outside the Ostian gate and on the way to the Basilica of Saint Paul the Apostle.

The plots along the via Ostiensis continued to be used as burial grounds until the Middle Ages. Evidence of inhumation in the ground or inside amphoras (enchytrismos) has emerged from those layers of the site belonging to a period in which the commercial structures had long been abandoned and mostly dismantled.