A recent discovery in Italy has left archaeologists scratching their heads. A stone structure of unknown purpose has been unearthed near the town of Torreano, near Udine in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. Despite being initially identified as a burial cist, further excavations have revealed no human remains, leaving researchers at a loss to explain its original use.
The so-called “mysterious structure of unknown purpose” was initially identified by excavators digging holes to lay new fiber optic cabling. It was reported by Ivano Dorbolo’, a scholar of history and archaeology, and leader of the research group Valli del Natisone – Ricerche ed indagini archeologiche .
The ancient structure was constructed with stone slabs forming a crude rectangular shape. With its “two long walls and a short back topped by a roof” the team of archaeologists initially assumed they had uncovered “a stone burial cist .” However, further excavations have revealed no human remains.
An Ancient and Turbulent Region Of Italy
Bordered by Austria to the north, Slovenia to the east, and the Adriatic Sea to the south, this region of Italy was inhabited by various ancient civilizations including the Celts, Romans, and Lombards. In 554 AD, the Byzantine Emperor, Justinian I , responded to the Lombard invasion of Italy by seizing the entire region, at which time it became a part of the Exarchate of Ravenna, based in the city of Ravenna, the capital of the Western Roman Empire.
The Exarchate declined in the 8th century as the Lombards and Franks gained control of northern Italy, and together established the Duchy of Friuli, which was a highly-contested territory fought over between the Holy Roman Empire and the Venetian Republic . In the 15th century, the Venetians gained control of the region and held it until the fall of the Republic in 1797 AD.
The age or purpose of this curious stone structure in Friuli Venezia Giulia is unknown. (Ivano Dorbolo’)
“We Have No Idea How Old It Is”
An article on Archaeonews explains that the unknown structure was found amidst “a silty, muddy soil typical of waterways.” Given the weight and size of the stones used to create the box it is agreed that this was “not a quick structure built by a local farmer, but rather, a significant infrastructure project requiring financial and human investment.”
Dorbolo’ said in the official statement that the most plausible hypothesis at the moment is that the stone structure was “a causeway, built to allow carts to pass through an ancient water course that flowed through the structure.” However, other archaeologists have proposed that the structure is a culvert or drainpipe. But it is argued that the structure’s rough-hewn, heavy stone slabs “are not the best choice for that purpose.”
The archaeologists said that because no artifacts or stratigraphic data is available at the site, it would be “nearly impossible” to date a collection of heavy stone slabs. And in conclusion, Dorbolo’ says “we have no idea what it is or how old it is”.
Might the Answer Be Found in Deep-History?
At the beginning of this article, we provided a run through of the history of this region of Italy from the 6th century. However, archaeologists might have to look much further back in time to identify the original nature of the structure, for there are several prehistoric sites in the Friuli Venezia Giulia.
The oldest is the Palù di Livenza, which is located in the province of Pordenone, which has a peat bog that holds preserved stone tools, weapons, and animal bones, indicating human activity in the region over 10,000 years ago. Another important archaeological site in Friuli Venezia Giulia is Aquileia. This major Roman city served as an important center of trade and commerce in the region between the 2nd and 3rd century BC.
Therefore, it is of little wonder that the team of archaeologists are lost trying to pin down the original purpose of the stone box/tunnel/bridge. Theoretically, the structure could have been built anytime between 10,000 BC and the Neolithic, or by the Romans at the start of the 1st millennium BC, or perhaps by the Lombards or the Franks between the 6th and 8th centuries AD.
Having been analyzed up close, without any signs of internment or human activity, the archaeologists have now refilled the site in order to protect it.
Top image: The currently unknown structure found in Friuli Venezia Giulia. Source: Ivano Dorbolo’
By Ashley Cowie
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