Archaeologists have uncovered a huge Roman necropolis containing some 270 tombs south of Rome at Ponte Galeria following a tip-off from the art police. The police had become suspicious that there might be an archaeological site in the area after they arrested two local people for possession of ancient artefacts. The graves contain well-preserved skeletons but few grave goods apart from ceramic tankards and oil lamps, and experts believe the burial ground was for lower social classes. Anthropologists who have examined the skeletons said that some 70 per cent are adult men, while many have spinal fractures or other abnormalities. This has led them to suggest that they may have been workers from a nearby salt mine who were used to carrying heavy sacks on their shoulders, or otherwise may have been involved in the construction of ports for the emperors Claudius and Trajan. Many of the skeletons were found with a coin placed in their mouths as the traditional toll for Charon, the Underworld ferryman who accompanied the dead across the river Styx. The coins bear the portraits of the Emperor Trajan (53-117) and Faustina the Elder (100-141), wife of Emperor Antoninus Pius, giving an approximate date for at least some of the burials. Excavations at the site are continuing.
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