An archaeological first: A poem by Virgil appears on the remnants of a Roman oil amphora

Measuring just 6 centimeters wide and 8 centimeters long, the magnitude and exceptionality of the discovery has left the European archaeological community flabbergasted. It is a fragment of an oil amphora from the Roman region of Betica, manufactured about 1,800 years ago, with a written text on it, found during prospecting carried out in the municipality of Hornachuelos (Córdoba) by members of OLEASTRO, a joint project between the Universities of Cordoba, Seville and Montpellier.

Thus far, nothing would have been extraordinary about the find, as countless pieces of pottery from ancient Rome have been found. Monte Testaccio in Rome, an artificial mound comprised of Roman pottery, is an infinite source of information about the Roman olive and wine industry.

In fact, at first, the research team was not particularly surprised to receive the fragment from Francisco Adame, a resident of the village of Ochavillo, the first person who noticed that little piece of Rome when walking through Arroyo de Tamujar, an area very close to the village of Villalón (Fuente Palmera).

Neither was the research team astonished by the fact that the amphora featured words, as this is quite common too. In fact, the information printed on amphorae (producers, quantities, control…) has allowed archaeologists to understand the history of agricultural trade during the Empire.

Likewise, it was hardly shocking to find a piece of an amphora in an area like the plain of the Guadalquivir River, considered one of the nerve centers of olive oil production and trade throughout the Empire. In the surroundings of Corduba, modern-day Cordoba, a good part of the olive oil consumed by Rome was produced and packaged, as evidenced, for example, by the remnants of amphorae with “Betica” seals preserved on Mount Testaccio.

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