A few miles north of Venice, the remains of the city of Altinum are hidden in the ground. Source: Andrea Ninfo, University of Padua / Science
Read out Italian researchers have unveiled the structure of Venice's ancestral city, Altinum. With aerial photographs could they draw a detailed picture of the city? with its road network, canals, theaters, and city walls, the remnants of which are now hidden in the ground north of the lagoon. Altinum was until the fifth century an important trading city on the Adriatic. For the history of Venice Altinum plays a major role, because its inhabitants first colonized the lagoon islands, after they had fled from the Hun king, Attila. On today's map, the town of Altinum is located seven kilometers north of Venice, near the Marco Polo Airport of Venice. It is the only major Roman city in northern Italy and one of the few in Europe that has not been buried under medieval or modern cities. As the sea level rises, the walls of the city sink into the lagoon and are now covered by fields. Therefore, the structure and structure of Altinum were previously unknown.

The team of Andrea Ninfo from Padua has now reconstructed the topography of the city in detail with aerial photographs. They have taken pictures both in the visible spectral range of the light and in the invisible, so-called near infrared range. Among other things, the near infrared used in remote sensing is the study of vegetation, as green plants radiate much more strongly at these wavelengths than in the visible light range. Solid objects such as stones or buildings, on the other hand, emit the same intensity in the visible as well as in the near infrared range. By superimposing the images, researchers can distinguish buildings and vegetation.

The scientists took the pictures in the summer of 2007 during a strong dry period. Only then could they make objects like stones visible under the ground. The predecessor of Venice was surrounded by rivers and canals, including a large canal that led through the city and connected it with the lagoon, the scientists report. A digital reconstruction of the terrain showed that the city was two to three meters above the then sea level. The urban structure of Altinum was complex and perfectly adapted to the specific conditions of the swampy environment, the researchers assess their findings. The Romans seem to have known how to use the harsh and swampy lagoon landscape long before they set up Venice in the middle of the lagoon.

Andrea Ninfo (University of Padua) et al .: Science, doi: 10.1126 / science.1174206 ddp / science.de? Stefanie shrub display

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