Fortunately no one was on the pavement while it collapsed.

By Cailey Rizzo
May 20, 2020

A giant sinkhole opened in the piazza just outside of Rome’s Pantheon last month, revealing stones that date back to around 27-25 B.C.

The sinkhole that opened up in the Piazza della Rotonda on April 27 is about 10 square feet and about eight feet deep, according to Italian outlet Ansa.

Seven slabs of travertine rock, that were part of the original paving when the Pantheon was built, were exposed below the cobblestones that Rome is known for today. Fortunately no one was on the pavement that collapsed due to the coronavirus lockdown restrictions in April, according to The Local Italy.

archaeological excavation site
Credit: AGF/Getty

"The area, fortunately closed, could have become a really dangerous trap for Romans and the thousands of tourists who on a beautiful day in the middle of spring, in a "normal" period, would have filled it," the La Stampa newspaper reported, translated by The Local Italy. 

Sinkholes are not an altogether rare occurrence in Rome. For about the past 100 years, they have been opening up across the city. But within the past decade or so, the number of sinkholes tripled. In 2018, a record-breaking 175 sinkholes opened up across the city.

archaeological excavation site outside of the Pantheon
Credit: AGF/Getty

Officials attribute the sudden openings to the fact that much of Rome sits on soft, sandy soil. Eastern Rome in particular is prone to sinkholes because it’s where materials were quarried in ancient times. As cars and scooters run along these roads, their vibrations can trigger sinkholes.

In 2018, the city passed a multi-million-euro plan in place to fix its streets however the execution has been slow.

Although the sinkhole brought the stones to light, they were first discovered in the 1990s, according to a press release from Rome’s Superintendence for Archaeological Heritage. When local authorities were laying service lines, they came across the stones. Instead of excavating the artifacts, they chose to leave them underground.