Ancient pavers have been uncovered after a giant sinkhole unexpectedly opened outside the Pantheon in Rome – usually packed with tourists.
The eight-meter-deep and three-meter-long hole suddenly appeared on a cobbled visitor hotspot Piazza della Rotunda on a Sunday afternoon last month.
A potential disaster was avoided as the area is currently closed to pedestrians due to the coronavirus closure, but at the height of the summer season it would have been full of people, it reports The local Italy.
However, the natural phenomenon has given the Romans a glimpse of what the streets looked like around the iconic Catholic Church – formerly a Roman temple – as early as 27 BC when it was first built.
For updates on coronavirus, follow our live blog HERE.
The Smithsonian reports that officials in the Italian capital had known about the existence of the seven old stones for years, but chose to dig for fear of harming them.
They were first discovered in the 1990s, according to reports.
Made of travertine – a popular building material in ancient Rome that was also used for the Colosseum – the stones are perfectly preserved surrounded by pozzolanic dirt.
Due to the high sand content and layers of ruins in Rome, zinc holes are quite common, with 100 last year – compared to 20 in Naples.
“The most sensitive area is eastern Rome, where ancient materials were extracted,” said geologist Stefania Nisio, who is working on a project to map Rome’s sinkholes, Adnkronos.
“The main cause of a sinkhole in the city is the presence of an underground cavity,” he continued. “We have many examples of this, especially in Lazio, not only in Rome, but also in Viterbo and Rieti.”
The districts most at risk for zinc holes are Appio Latino, Tuscolano, Prenestino, Tiburtino and Quadraro, he added.
Travel and leisure City officials gave the green light to a multi-million euro plan to gradually renovate the streets of Rome in 2018.