How about an an­cient road on the side?

McDon­ald’s pre­serves Ro­man street found dur­ing con­struc­tion

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - ELISABETTA POVOLEDO New York Times

It’s a com­mon enough story in Italy. An an­cient ruin — in this case, a sec­tion of Ro­man road — is dis­cov­ered dur­ing the con­struc­tion of a build­ing — in this case, a McDon­ald’s — and puts a halt to the work un­til the site can be ex­ca­vated.

Rather than fret about lost time and money, McDon­ald’s de­cided to spon­sor the dig, and it worked with the arche­o­log­i­cal au­thor­i­ties to pre­serve the road, built be­tween the sec­ond and first cen­turies BC.

As of Tues­day, vis­i­tors to the fast­food res­tau­rant, about 20 kilo­me­tres south­east of cen­tral Rome, could walk along the 45-me­tre stretch of road with­out even hav­ing to buy a Big Mac.

Many parts of Italy con­tain sub­ter­ranean riches, and over the cen­turies, count­less ed­i­fices have in­cor­po­rated or adapted the ru­ins of pre­vi­ous eras. Sev­eral restau­rants in Rome, for ex­am­ple, have an im­por­tant his­tor­i­cal or arche­o­log­i­cal lin­eage, like be­ing the site where Julius Cae­sar was mur­dered, or a place where oil am­phorae were stocked in an­cient times. Even the McDon­ald’s in Ter­mini Sta­tion in Rome in­cludes a sec­tion of the Ser­vian Wall, from the fourth cen­tury BC.

But the work at the McDon­ald’s in Marino — more pre­cisely in the ham­let of Frat­toc­chie, known as Bovil­lae in an­cient times — stands out be­cause the project in­cor­po­rated the road, which would oth­er­wise have been re­buried.

“Arche­ol­ogy is con­stantly bring­ing to light tes­ti­monies of the past that have to be doc­u­mented in an ex­act­ing man­ner but can’t al­ways be prop­erly pre­served,” said Al­fon­sina Russo, the Cul­ture Min­istry’s arche­o­log­i­cal su­per­in­ten­dent for the area.

In many cases, un­less the finds are ex­cep­tional, they are re­buried in the hopes that they can be re-ex­am­ined later.

“It’s bet­ter to pro­tect them than to leave them ex­posed, when it’s not pos­si­ble to prop­erly care for them,” Russo ex­plained. “The earth pro­tects; man de­stroys.”

The find­ing of the road, un­cov­ered in 2014 while dig­ging for the foun­da­tions of the McDon­ald’s, came as a sur­prise.

“We de­cided with McDon­ald’s to pro­tect and pro­mote this im­por­tant site, which would have oth­er­wise fallen again into obliv­ion.”

The road was a di­ver­tic­u­lum, or side pas­sage, lead­ing to the Ap­pian Way, a Ro­man thor­ough­fare built in 312 BC. The un­cov­ered stretch prob­a­bly led to a villa or a great es­tate, Russo said.

Arche­ol­o­gists on the dig have said that the un­earthed road, which has grooved signs of an­cient wear and tear from cart wheels, was most likely used for a few hun­dred years be­fore it was aban­doned. The skele­tons of three men found in the gut­ter of the road, which have been re­pro­duced in resin casts, are signs that the road had been aban­doned, said an arche­ol­o­gist in­volved in the ef­fort, Pamela Cerino.

She was hired by McDon­ald’s but worked un­der the su­per­vi­sion of the Cul­ture Min­istry, as is usu­ally the case in Italy when pri­vate prop­erty is in­volved. McDon­ald’s spent around 300,000 eu­ros, or about C$415,000, on the project.

The road was ex­ca­vated, doc­u­mented and en­closed in a gallery with a glass roof, so that pa­trons of the res­tau­rant can look down on it. The en­trance to the gallery is sep­a­rate and can be vis­ited by any­one, not just McDon­ald’s cus­tomers.

The gallery is closed off by a gate and mon­i­tored with sur­veil­lance cam­eras, and McDon­ald’s Italia has pledged to pay for its up­keep.

“We’re proud to be here, giv­ing this Ro­man road,” said Mario Fed­erico, man­ag­ing direc­tor of McDon­ald’s Italia, who said it was the first time the res­tau­rant chain had en­coun­tered the need for “a so­lu­tion of this kind” in Italy.

ELISABETHA POVOLEDO, NEW YORK TIMES

Peo­ple walk along a stretch of Ro­man road in Marino, Italy, that McDon­ald’s paid to have pre­served.

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