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A sacrificial rite beside the city walls

Excavations conducted in several stages from 1991 to 2001 in the area once occupied by Duke Charles Emmauel I's Grand Gallery between Palazzo Madama and the Royal Palace were directed to investigation of some features of the city's outer walls and its housebuilding techniques, together with exploration of large sectors of the rubbish dumps on the eastern side of the walls themselves.
A stratified deposit more than 4 metres deep was identified and explored on the city side. It consisted of the initial settlement levels cut through by the foundation trench of the walls, their construction site, and the embankment formed behind them. The most singular discovery, however, was the evidence of a sacrificial rite. The soil marking the final stage of the construction site was pierced by four upright amphorae inserted at the corners of an ideal, approximately 5 x 5 metres rectangle.
Two were solely filled with segments of adult cattle ribs, whereas the other two were broken at the neck and contained similar bones mixed with earth and infiltrated foreign materials. Within the rectangle itself , two small trenches about twenty centimetres deep were choked with earth abundantly mixed with ashes and carbonized pieces of wood. A series of holes on the east side of one of these rectangular trenches may have housed poles used to support a structure associated with the ceremony . Produced in southern Spain for the carriage of salted fish, these amphorae can perhaps be seen as marking the boundaries of a space dedicated to the sacrificial ceremony celebrating the inaguration of the walls. Amphorae were widely employed in the times of Nero and the Flavian dynasty. Their presence here indicates that the building site on this side of the city walls was closed between AD 50 and 75.