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Scientists discover ancient Roman road submerged in Venice lagoon

New research suggests that even before the discovery of Venice in the fifth century, extensive Roman settlements could've been present in the Venice lagoon.

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The Venice lagoon and San Giorgio Maggiore Island in 2019. 

Tiziana Fabi/Getty Images

Researchers have discovered artifacts and remnants of a Roman-era road in the famous lagoon of Venice. During the Roman times, areas of the lagoon that are currently submerged in water were accessible by land; however, it's still unclear to what extent humans were occupying the area at that time. 

The recent discovery, made by researchers at Italy's Institute of Marine Science and discussed in Scientific Reports, was achieved by mapping the lagoon floor using sonar. The researchers discovered 12 archaeological structures in the Treporti Channel, which is located within the lagoon. These structures were found to be aligned in a northeasterly direction for 1,140 meters (about 3,740 feet) and are 2.7 meters tall and 52.7 meters long.

Previous surveys of the channel uncovered stones similar to ones the Romans used for their construction. This led researchers to believe these stones could be aligned along a Roman road.

Based on the dimensions and likeness to other structures in similar areas, like the lagoons of Grado and Marano, researchers say the largest of the structures found could potentially be something akin to a dock. Previous geological data indicates that a road connecting the structures was located on a sandy ridge that would've been above sea level during the Roman era but is now submerged in the lagoon.

All these findings led researchers to the idea that a permanent settlement could've been located in the Treporti Channel. They believe the road could've been part of an even wider network of Roman landscape within the Venice region. These roads could've been used by travelers and sailors to journey between the city of Chioggia and the northern part of the Venice lagoon.