Tunnels Under Rome Mapped So People Don’t Forget About Them

December 2, 2013 Updated: July 18, 2015

The tunnels under Rome have been mapped so that people don’t forget about them.

The tunnels are well-known to the older generation but younger Romans are less aware of the associated hazards, said George Mason University geoscientist Giuseppina Kysar Mattietti.

“Since they weren’t serving any use, people tend to forget what can be a problem,” Mattietti told LiveScience.

Mattietti and scientists from Center for Speleoarchaeological Research (Sotterranei di Roma) are using laser 3-D scanning to map the tunnels, and map the maze by hand to make sure the area above the tunnels is safe.

“There might be cracks, so they will be showing as veins almost, or openings, so we map the openings and map any kind of detachment,” she said. “It’s interesting, because at times when you are down there, you can hear people on top.”


Students stand on a Roman street that is now below ground level because Romans often built on top of old ruins. (Sotterranei di Roma)

If there are weak parts of tunnels, then city officials seal off the unstable point and pour mortar into the tunnel to fix it.

“What the municipality wants to do is to basically have a map of the risk so at that point they can on their side decide what kind of intervention needs to be done,” Mattieti said.

The Sotterranei di Roma says on its website that the tunnels, having been flooded over the years, have debris in them, and some are not properly supported underneath.

There’s still more work to be done. The mapping isn’t complete and Mattieti and the other scientists continue their work.

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