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Bill Thayer

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One tomb, two small puzzles


[image ALT: zzz]

Knowing nothing about the work of the modern restorers by which this tomb gained the white concrete supports, I find it puzzling that its lower part should have fallen apart but not taken the top with it in a big collapse. My solution is that the base of the tomb included larger blocks of marble or other good stone, and that these were carted off, thus sapping the edifice from below but leaving enough core for it to stand until the restorers got to it. I'm not too convinced, but here it is:

Our tomb on the Flaminia
(seen from the northwest)
and the Pyramid Mausoleum on the Via Appia,
known to have been sapped by such a mechanism.


[image ALT: zzz (central Italy).]
Now let's turn 45° clockwise around the ruin; we're now facing due south and looking at its most definite structural feature. These five rectangular holes face away from the road. What are they: niches on the outside (back) of a small tomb, or on the inside of a much larger one? Places where some kind of beams used to insert? Something else?

Oddly enough, in all this uncertainty I can still say for sure that the Latin word for them was columbarium: see the article in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.


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Page updated: 2 Sep 03