Discovery of ancient Roman "highway" reveals geomorphic changes in karst environments during historic times
Sinkholes are a well-known geologic hazard but their past occurrence, useful for subsidence risk prediction, is difficult to define, especially for ancient historic times. Consequently, our knowledge about Holocene carbonate landscapes is often limited. A multidisciplinary study of Trieste Karst (Italy), close to early Roman military fortifications, led to the identification of possible ancient road tracks, cut by at least one sinkhole. Electrical Resistivity Tomography through the sinkhole has suggested the presence of a cave below its bottom, possibly responsible of the sinkhole formation, while Ground Penetrating Radar has detected no tectonic disturbances underneath the tracks. Additionally, archaeological surveys led to the discovery of over 200 Roman shoe hobnails within or close to the investigated route. According to these data, the tracks are interpreted as the remains of a main Roman road, whose itinerary has been reconstructed for more than 4 km together with other elements of ancient landscape. Our results provide the first known evidence of a Roman main road swallowed by sinkholes and suggest that Holocene karst landscapes could be much different from what previously believed. In fact, sinkholes visible nowadays in the investigated region could have been flat areas filled by sediments up to the Roman time.
Bernardini, F., Vinci, G., Forte, E., Furlani, S., Pipan, M., Biolchi, S., De Min, A., Fragiacomo, A., Micheli, R., Ventura, P. & Tuniz, C. (2018). Discovery of ancient Roman "highway" reveals geomorphic changes in karst environments during historic times. PLoS One, 13 (3), e0194939-1-e0194939-19.