By Elisa Black-Taylor
The Roman Cat and the Lost Catacomb sounds like the title to an adventure film, much in the tradition of Indiana Jones. This is the true story of a stray cat in Rome who discovered a 2000 year old catacomb in Rome last week.
The adventure began around 10 p.m. on October 16 when Mirko Curti and a friend were chasing a stray cat away from his apartment complex in the Via di Pietralata neighborhood. This area is full of tufa rock cliffs as well as grottos, which the cat slipped into. The two men decided to follow the stray cat inside.
The men slipped into one of the cliff openings and followed the cat’s meow Inside where they discovered Roman niches dug into the rocks, as well as human bones on the floor. The niches were typically used by the Romans to store ashes in funeral urns.
Archaeologists date the catacomb between the 1st century BC and the 2nd century AD. It’s believed that heavy rains in the Via di Pietralata area a few weeks ago loosened the tufa rock, making the entrance visible.
Many of the cliffs in this area have been heavily quarried over the years. Archaeologists believe the soft tufa rock collapsed, causing the human bones to fall into the funeral urn area of the catacomb.
This isn’t the first big discovery in Rome in recent years. Romans aren’t as thrilled with new archaeological discoveries as those of us who live in newer countries. They live on top of ancient ruins, and many times the excavation of new discoveries interferes with their daily routine. An ancient Roman road was recently discovered in the parking lot of an Ikea store outside of Rome. The city’s rugby stadium also has excavations going on nearby. A concert hall in Rome is built around an unearthed Roman villa.
Valentina Stefano from the Italian Confederation of Archaeologists recently told The Telegraph (UK):
“The Italian government is always talking about the importance of our culture and heritage, but the fact is they have been cutting funds for the sector.”
I would imagine the confederation is thankful the cat found the catacombs without charging a fee. I wonder if anyone will take the stray cat into their home for discovering this important historical site?
Curti has called this “the most incredible experience” of his life.
Comments anyone? I do have a comment myself. I wonder why the two men went to the trouble of following the cat they were trying to chase off? Ten o’clock at night seems a strange hour to go on a foot chase after a cat. People chasing cats make me nervous. Just saying…