Roman Domus Discovered Near Stabiae – But Will There be Funds to Excavate?

In the small town of Casola di Napoli, about three miles south of the archaeological site of Pompeii, sheer chance has brought to light an archaeological discovery as well as some unanswered questions. A lorry driver was manoeuvring his van when he managed to cause some subsidence in part of a car park between two residential buildings. A hole opened in the ground revealing a stone arch and some walls.

Experts believe the structure revealed is a Roman domus built maybe 2,000 year ago when the area just east of Stabiae would have been largely agricultural and dotted with country villas. The discovery was made in the residential area of Monticelli, where a small stretch of Roman road was already known to exist. Local residents reported having seen a torrent of water coming out of the ground at this site when it rains heavily, according to This could well have been caused by previously unseen underground chambers and channels built by the Romans, which would have filled with water.

The well-preserved domus could be a sign that a large Roman settlement also existed in the area. The problem is that it is right next to two blocks of residential flats. If there are further archaeological structures in the vicinity, they could well be nestling right underneath the homes of dozens of Neapolitan families. However, reports that so far there has been little sign that the Roman domus is of any interest.

Building work is currently under way to build a third residential block at Monticelli the work has been put on hold since last week’s find. Domenico Elefante, the building site’s manager, admitted his surprise at the discovery. He said it was particularly strange because two council blocks had been built there during the 1980s, and there had been no reports of archaeological finds at that time. Elefante fears that a lack of funds will mean the discovery may not be excavated properly. The site is also near to an illegally-constructed building that has already been pulled down. The problem of houses built without permission (known as ‘edilizia abusiva’) is endemic throughout Italy, particularly in the south.

In contrast, a Roman house was discovered beneath a theatre in the UK earlier this month. It was in such bad condition that preservation won’t be possible.

Photo by Gaius Caecilius, from the Heritage Key Flickr photo pool.