Infrared and variable wavelength aerial photography reveal the outlines of the lost city
The Roman city of Altinum is one of the rare ancient cities of importance not continuously inhabited and built over in modern times.
The city’s history went back far into Antiquity. It was already a significant commercial center in the 5th century B.C. Its mild climate attracted wealthy Romans who built luxury villas there, mentioned by Martial. Marcus Aurelius’ co-emperor Lucius Verus perished during an epidemic at Altinum. In the Christian era, Altinum was the seat of a bishopric.
The history of Altinum came to an abrupt end when the city was destroyed by Attila the Hun in 452 A.D. Its inhabitants fled to nearby coastal islands where they founded what became the city of Venice.
(T)hanks to sophisticated aerial imagery, the lost city has been brought to life once again more than 1,500 years on.
From the ground, the 100-hectare site just north of Italy’s Venice airport looks like nothing more than rolling fields of corn and soybeans.
But researchers have managed to map out the remains of the buried city, revealing a detailed street plan of the city walls, the street network, dwellings, theatres and other structures.
They also show a complex network of rivers and canals, revealing how the people mastered the marshy environment in what is now the lagoon of Venice.
In July 2007 Paolo Mozzi, a geomorphologist at the University of Padua in Italy, and his team took aerial photos of the site in several wavelengths of visible light and in near-infrared.
The photos were taken during a severe drought in 2007, which made it possible to pick up the presence of stones, bricks and other solid structures beneath the surface.
When the images were processed to tease out subtle variations in plant water stress, a buried metropolis emerged.
The BBC story has animated video flyover.
EugÃ©ne Delacroix (1798-1863), Atilla suivi de ses hordes, foule aux pieds lâ€™Italie et les arts (Attila followed by his Horde, Trampling under Foot Italy and the Arts), BibliothÃ¨que, Palais Bourbon, Paris, 1843-47